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Emirati activist forcibly returned to UAE handed 10-year sentence

Bin Sobeih was one of many Emirati activists who demanded political reforms in 2011 [Corbis]

Date of publication: 16 November, 2016

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An Abu Dhabi court has sentenced to ten years in prison Emirati activist Abdulrahman Bin Sobeih who was forcibly deported to the UAE after attempting to claim asylum in Indonesia.

An Emirati activist who was forcibly returned to the United Arab Emirates after attempting to claim asylum in Indonesia has been sentenced to ten years in prison.

Abdulrahman Bin Sobeih will now face new unknown charges after a previous 15-year sentence was cancelled by the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi.

In July 2013, the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court sentenced Bin Sobeih (also known as al-Suwaidi) in absentia to 15 years in prison on charges of belonging to a group that had sought to overthrow the UAE government.

Bin Sobeih was detained by Indonesian authorities on 20 October 2015 for possession of false identity papers in Indonesia. He was made to board a private plane bound for the UAE on 18 December 2015. His whereabouts after this date were unknown until he appeared in court on 28 March 2016.

He is one of many Emirati activists, public servants and academics who called for political reforms during the height of the Arab Spring uprising in 2011.

The authorities responded harshly to their demands, with a heavy crackdown focused on the now-outlawed al-Islah movement, one of the oldest political groups in the UAE.

Al-Islah says it focuses on educational and charitable reform, while the authorities accuse them of being linked to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and conspiring against the UAE's state security.

This crackdown peaked during the "UAE94" trial, where 94 activists, many of whom were affiliated to al-Islah, were sentenced in a trial that rights groups described as "grossly unfair".

According to a report by Amnesty International in April 2016, many of the 94 had been held without access to their families or legal representation, for months, in unknown locations, before they were tried.

The court accepted as evidence "confessions" made by defendants, even though 71 of the 94 defendants had complained of torture and other ill-treatment.

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