Indian Migrant Worker Imprisoned in UAE on Facebook Charges
An Indian migrant worker has lost his appeal in an Emirati court after being convicted and sentenced to one year in prison for posts he made on Facebook last year.
The 31-year-old electricity wielder was originally detained by UAE authorities in November last year after allegedly posting comments on Facebook that “disrespected” and “insulted” the Prophet Muhammed. In May of this year, an Emirati court found the defendant guilty and sentenced him to one year in prison, a fine of Dh500,000, and deportation on the completion of his sentence.
The migrant worker launched an appeal, asking the court to overturn the sentence arguing that the phone and account from which the posts had been sent were hacked. Today an Emirati court rejected this appeal and upheld the original sentence.
In recent years, the UAE authorities have rapidly stepped up monitoring and surveillance techniques concerning the online activities of internet users within its borders. Last month, four young GCC residents were arrested in Abu Dhabi for sharing a viral video on social media of an unrelated man and woman having a conversation in a car after UAE authorities deemed it to be 'unethical' and 'offensive' to wider society.
In 2012, the UAE government instituted the vague 'cybercrime law' which allowed the authorities to more effectively control and sanction online activity around social media sites. Critics have long maintained that the cybercrime law heavily contravenes rights around freedom of expression and assembly in the UAE, arguing that it is merely a technique used by authorities to silence divergent opinions and dissenting voices.
In 2016 alone, around 300 people were detained for voicing opinions on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. This latest case is illustrative of the increasingly coercive nature of the UAE security state whereby social media posts are tracked, monitored and used as a method of surveillance by authorities.
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