Injustice Forces us to Initiate Hunger Strike
We, the five persons detained in case no. 313/2011/State Security, currently pending before the Federal Supreme Court, wish to congratulate the people of the United Arab Emirates on the occasion of the blessed Eid al-Adha and the seventh anniversary of His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s assumption to rule in the emirate of Abu Dhabi and to the presidency of the UAE.
Having endured seven months of detention, estrangement from our families and loved ones, numerous holidays separated from them, a smear campaign, and the politicization and mobilization of public opinion against us, we feel compelled to clearly state certain facts that have been intentionally concealed. We ask that you indulge us as we seek to highlight a different perspective that has been actively suppressed, following God’s words, “God likes not the shouting of evil words unless a man has been wronged; God is All-hearing, All-knowing” (al-Nisa’ 148).
The charges against us involve merely a few lines written in October 2010, using aliases, on a website that the state authorities blocked in February 2010. These lines contained words that the Public Prosecution, in April 2011, deemed a misdemeanor punishable under Articles 176 and 8 of the Penal Code, which mandates a penalty of no more than five years imprisonment for any person who publicly insults the President, a member of the Supreme Council, a Crown Prince, or the national flag or motto. As some of us have actively expressed our opinions demanding some political, economic, and cultural reforms in the country, State Security alleged six months after the publication of these lines that we were the ones who had written the lines in question using pseudonyms. As a result, we were arrested on April 8 and 9, after which we endured numerous flagrant injustices that have nearly transformed our country from an oasis of safety and stability to something like a police state. Our attorneys refuted the charges and explained in their briefs that the allegations against us were false, unfounded, and legally unsound as the elements of the crime did not exist. Moreover, the prime witness in the case used an inaccurate surveillance system that repeatedly erred, and he gave a testimony that was replete with errors, lies, confusion, and falsification. The evidences presented in the case were weak and dubious, and raises questions about the timing of the arrest and charges.
Permit us to elaborate on some of the injustices and arbitrary actions we endured in our harsh experience:
- It was an injustice when we were brought before the State Security circuit of the Federal Supreme Court, whose rulings are not subject to appeal, while foreign nationals accused of the same charge under the same legal statute (Article 176) have been tried in primary misdemeanor courts. For example, an Arab expatriate on January 24, 2004, was brought before the al-`Ain misdemeanor court on charges of showing contempt for the ruler and insulting a symbol of the state. He was sentenced to three months imprisonment and a fine of 1,500 dirhams. An Asian expatriate on June 28, 2011, was brought before a primary misdemeanor court in Ras al-Khaimah on charges of insulting the state flag and sentenced to one year in prison with a suspended sentence.
- It was an injustice that we have been provisionally detained for more than seven months. The Public Prosecution and later the Court rejected our repeated requests for release on bail in this simple misdemeanor, although sentences in previous court cases precedents involving this same misdemeanor have not exceeded three months in prison or one year in prison with a suspended sentence.
- It was an injustice when a vicious, orchestrated smear campaign was launched against us from the first day of our detention, initiated by certain individuals using text messages, websites, and satellite channels, and with such apparent technical and technological aid that it raises questions about the party behind this campaign. We have been described in utterly false terms, our patriotism and loyalty to the country impugned, and we are libeled and slandered. Demands have been made for the harshest penalties against us, including the death penalty and the revocation of our citizenship, although this has entailed legal and religious violations. The brunt of the campaign has been managed by two websites, Lethal Character (Shaksiyya Fatake) and Proud Emirati, which have fomented a climate of general hostility to us and our families. This campaign has brought enormous pressure to bear and interfered with a judicial proceeding.
- It was an injustice when the state authorities, represented by the Interior Ministry and the Public Prosecution, the bodies legally responsible for protecting rights and liberties and receiving complaints of violations thereof, failed to confront those behind this systematic campaign, although our attorney filed numerous complaints against them. Attorney bdul-Hamid al-Kumaiti submitted more than 15 criminal complaints on our and his behalf against persons identified by name, telephone number, and website, alleging threat, incitement to commit a felony against a person, and libel and slander. These complaints, regarding which the Public Prosecution, General Attorneyand the police shirked their legal duty, include the following in chronological order:
- April 19, 2011: a complaint from Dr. Nasir Bin Ghaith to the Public Prosecutor against blogger Lethal Character and the website Proud Emirati.
- April 19, 2011: a complaint from Ahmad Mansour to the Public Prosecutor against blogger Lethal Character and the website Proud Emirati, the administrators of a Facebook page titled “Ahmad Mansur is a Traitor without a Country”, and the website of [name redacted].
- April 19, 2011: a complaint from attorney al-Kumaiti to the Public Prosecutor against blogger Lethal Character and the website Proud Emirati, the administrators of a Facebook page titled Prosecute Abdul -Hamid al-Kumaiti, and the website of [name redacted].
- A complaint from Ahmad Mansour to the Public Prosecutor in Dubai against a group of persons who threatened to kill him [names redacted] and the website Proud Emirati.
- April 27, 2011: a complaint to the Public Prosecutor against a website.
- May 1, 2011: a complaint to the `Ajman Prosecution against [name redacted], known as [name redacted], who works at [name redacted].
- May 1, 2011: a complaint to the `Ajman Prosecution against the website Proud Emirati.
- May 16, 2011: a complaint to the Public Prosecution in Dubai against [name redacted]. The complaint was closed and the attorney contested the decision.
- July 10, 2011: a complaint from the five defendants to the State Security Prosecution against the brutality of security officers.
- September 28, 2011: a complaint to the al-Hamidiya police against [name redacted] and [name redacted].
- October 26, 2011: a complaint from Ahmad Mansour against [name redacted] for death threats and incitement to commit a felony against a person.
- It was an injustice when tribes and clans were invited to assemblies to sign documents demanding our prosecution or to attack us—something unprecedented in our country—especially since those who issued these appeals and those invited to such assemblies were not certain of the charges or evidence against us in this case.
- It was an injustice when we were denied a public trial open to the general public and were instead tried behind closed doors in four sessions. During these sessions the head of the judicial panel was predisposed to convict us on graver charges, his bias against us was clear. Witnesses lied under oath, our attorneys were prevented from doing their professional duty, and State Security personnel were present in these closed sessions. All of this has influenced the fairness of the trial, according to international standards, and judicial independence in this case, and it raises questions about the credibility of the trial and any verdicts issuing from it. Because of this, we decided to boycott later trial sessions.
- It was an injustice when the local media, particularly the local Arabic-language media, was prohibited from covering our viewpoint of the false charges against us. On the contrary, the media, through various columnists, participated in the ongoing incitement against us although none of them had access to the particulars of the case, as if our conviction were imperative. All semblance of neutrality, honesty, and transparency was lacking, and only one version of events was given a hearing. Unfortunately, the media became a platform for appeals to incitement and mobilization against a segment of Emiratis and innocent citizens who have been convicted of nothing and proven guilty of nothing, instead of being a platform for responsible free expression.
- It was an injustice when State Security assumed in charge of our case, given the broad authority it enjoys these days that allows it to intervene in various spheres of economic, political, and social life in the country. As everyone well knows, this agency engages in spying to pry into people’s deficiencies and embarrassments without legal basis or moral justification. It has targeted some citizens’ livelihood by denying them employment or promotion, forcing arbitrary transfers, or impeding private commercial businesses. Its abuses during investigations of those who fall under into its grasp may constitute torture.
- It was an injustice that we were not treated as innocent until proven guilty in a fair court of law, as the constitution mandates. Although we were charged with a simple misdemeanor, not a felony, we have been subjected to degrading treatment. Our homes were raided by large security and police forces and searched for hours, thus frightening our wives and small children. We spent up to 18 hours detained in cars with blacked-out windows without being permitted to attend to our needs or pray. At 1:30 am and later in some cases we were brought before the Public Prosecution to give our statements. We were imprisoned with prisoners convicted of serious criminal offenses in the Al-Wathba Prison, where we and others have endured illegal and unethical practices, some of which exceed the definition of ill-treatment and constitute psychological and physical torture. For example, we were all placed in isolation cells without light or water for a full week in poor conditions that did not allow for basic bodily functions. Medical care was delayed for some of us for two months after one of us contracted a skin disease and another sores because of the poor health and sanitary conditions. Some of us were placed in solitary confinement with our hands and feet bound by iron shackles for an extended period of time.
The injustices we and our families have faced for seven months, the violation and abuse of our most basic rights upheld by the constitution and law, the smear campaign against us that has been characterized by lies, threats, and accusations of treason, and the pressure and mobilization of public opinion to ensure our conviction for a crime that we have not been proven to have committed—all of this has stifled public liberties in general, and particularly freedom of opinion and expression, in our dear country to which we pledge our exclusive allegiance.
As such, and after all our efforts have been thwarted, after we have knocked on every door and exhausted all possible means of redress, after we have lost all hope of a fair trial and even civilized, humane treatment, after what we have endured from the local media, which everyone knows well, and from the security apparatus, which everyone does not, and after we were illegally targeted in prison by both guards and prisoners, we find ourselves compelled to declare an open-ended hunger strike starting on November 13, 2011/Dhu al-Hijja 17, 1432, until this unfair trial is dismissed and we are all released without restriction, condition, or amnesty because we have committed no crime and violated no national or international law.
We call for an investigation of what we have experienced in the past several months, carried out by an independent fact-finding commission which should examine our claims to expose the veracity or falsity of them. The intervention we demand is not to save ourselves, for we believe that our fate is in God’s hands. Rather, we demand this intervention to apprise the Emirati people of the truth and hold accountable those who caused and orchestrated these abuses. Such an investigation would count as an addition to the country’s shining record, elevating truth, justice, and human rights, and would constitute a rejection of all unjust, arbitrary practices perpetrated by the security apparatus in other countries, which have led them to darkness and tragedy. We pray that our country may avoid these evils and that the friendship, love, esteem, and loyalty that bind us to the country’s leaders will endure.
Engineer Ahmad Mansour `Ali `Abdullah al-`Abd al-Shehhi
Dr. Nasir Ahmad Khalfan Bin Ghaith al-Marri
Fahd Salim Muhammad Salim Dalk al-Shehhi
Hasan `Ali Hasan Al Khamis
Ahmad `Abd al-Khaliq Ahmad