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UAE jails Jordanian journalist over Facebook comments

Najjar has been sentenced to three years in jail [Facebook]

Date of publication: 16 March, 2017

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A UAE court jailed a Jordanian journalist for three years over Facebook comments deemed insulting to the United Arab Emirates, Emirati state media and a Jordanian press union said.

An Abu Dhabi court jailed Wednesday a Jordanian journalist for three years over Facebook comments deemed insulting to the United Arab Emirates, Emirati state media and a Jordanian press union said.

The Emirati state news agency WAM said a Jordanian national was handed a sentence of three years in prison and fined 500,000 dirhams ($136,130) for "insulting symbols of the state" on social media.

The Jordan Press Association identified him as journalist Tayseer al-Najjar, whose detention in 2015 over comments critizing the UAE among other countries drew condemnation from international rights groups.

WAM said the Jordanian's social media accounts would be shut down and his equipment confiscated by authorities as part of his sentence.

He also faces deportation after having served his time in jail, it said.

Najjar was detained in December 2015 and charged with violating the UAE's cybercrime law over Facebook comments in which he criticized the United Arab Emirates, among other countries, over the 2014 Gaza war, according to rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Article 29 of the cybercrime law criminalizes the publication online of information "with intent to make sarcasm or damage the reputation, prestige or stature of the State or... any of its symbols".

The Jordan Press Association, which had appointed a lawyer for Najjar, plans to appeal the verdict.

"We respect the UAE's judicial system ... but we truly believed he would be found innocent," Tareq Momani, head of the association, told AFP.

"We are now waiting to see the result of the appeal. We are following the case through our lawyer and we hope that Najjar will be found not guilty," he said.

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