Gulf states

UAE court sentences 69 activists in coup plot

A United Arab Emirates (UAE) court on July 2 gave sentences of up to 15 years in prison to 69 out of 94 people on trial for planning an Islamist coup. The group of defendants includes unnamed doctors, academics, lawyers and other professionals arrested over the past year for allegedly forming a secret network with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. The court found that the defendants planned to raise money to stage a coup against the Emirati ruling families. Most of the defendants are members of the conservative Reform and Social Guidance Association (al-Islah), a nonviolent Islamist political association advocating greater adherence to Islamic precepts. According to media sources eight suspects received prison terms of 15 years after being tried in absentia. The court gave 10-year sentences to 56 of the suspects, seven-year terms to five others and acquitted 25. The trial began in March. The UAE tolerates no political opposition within its borders.

Bahrain acquits police officers of torture charges

A Bahraini high criminal court on July 1 acquitted two police officers on trial for the torture of six Shi'iite doctors during the uprising against the Sunni regime in 2011. The Grand Criminal Court's Third Chamber acquitted the two officers of all charges due to the lack of adequate evidence that the officers engaged in the torture of two female and four male doctors in March 2011. Both officers, one being Bahraini princess Noura Bint Ebrahim al-Khalifa who serves in Bahrain's Drugs Control Unit, denied the charges. Prosecutor Nawaf Hamza will appeal the decision if they find error in the court's reasoning.

Kuwait woman sentenced to 11 years for tweeting

A criminal court in Kuwait on June 10 sentenced a woman to 11 years in prison for remarks she made on Twitter. Huda al-Ajmi was found guilty of three violations, including insulting the nation's ruler, Emir Shaikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, calling to overthrow the government and misusing her mobile phone. The 11-year prison term is the harshest sentence yet given to an online activist in Kuwait and will become final if it is not overturned when contested in the court of appeals and cassation court. Huda al-Ajmi, who denies the charges, is not a well-known activist and is not known to have participated in opposition protests.

Bahrain court sentences protesters up to 15 years

A Bahrain court on June 3 issued sentences to three protesters for allegedly taking part in anti-government protests as well as attempting to kill a police officer. The crimes were committed during an attack on police in a Shi'ite village near Manama which has been a hotbed of anti-government protests since 2011. The first accused protester has been sentenced to 15 years for attempted murder and taking part in the protests, while the other two protesters were given lesser sentences of 10 years and five years.

Bahrain rights activists on hunger strike

Two Bahraini human rights activists have intensified their hunger strike and are refusing fluids, according to a report released March 25 by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR). According to the report Zainab al-Khawaja and her father, prominent human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja began refusing fluids in response to being denied visits from their families. Earlier this month, the Bahrain court of appeals overturned the acquittal of Zainab al-Khawaja, who has been accused of insulting a government employee, and sentenced her to three months of imprisonment. She began her hunger strike on March 18. Abdulhadi al-Khawaja was sentenced to life in prison for his role anti-government protests by a military tribunal in June 2011. The Bahraini government has denied the report.

Bahrain: youth killed on uprising anniversary

A teenage boy was killed in clashes with police at a Shi'ite village near Bahrain's capital Manama on Feb. 14, as hundreds took to the streets to mark the second anniversary of the uprising in the Sunni-ruled kingdom. The youth was hit by shotgun fire in the village of Dia, Bahrain's major Shiite opposition bloc al-Wefaq announced on Twitter. Strikes and protests to commemorate the uprising were called by clandestine online groups such as the February 14 Revolution Youth Coalition. Security forces used tear-gas to prevent protesters from marching on the former Pearl Square, where activists camped for a month before being forcefully driven out in March 2011 (after which authorities demolished its iconic monument and changed the plaza's name). The two years of unrest in Bahrain have left at least 80 dead. 

Qatar: imprisoned poet appeals life sentence

A Qatari poet who has been sentenced to life in prison for insulting the Emir has been granted an appeal now scheduled for Jan. 27, according to his lawyer. Muhammad al-Ajami, 36, was imprisoned in November 2011 after a judge found him guilty of calling for the overthrow of the government of the Gulf sate. Al-Ajami was studying literature at Cairo University when the Tunisian revolution broke out in December 2010. Inspired by events in Tunisia and Egypt, al-Ajami wrote a short poem, "Tunisian Jasmine," which he recited to private audiences. The audio of one performance appeared on YouTube, apparently without al-Ajami's knowledge. Al-Ajami was arrested months later when Qatari authorities took note of the video, and held in solitary confinement for nearly a year before being brought to trial. He was charged with "insulting" Qatar's emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, and "inciting to overthrow the ruling system"—an offense that carries the death penalty. Qatar's Court of First Instance sentenced him to a life term on Nov. 29, 2011. The sentence will now be reviewed by Qatar's Court of Appeal. (Al-Jazeera, Dec. 29; Consortium News, Dec. 12)

UAE arrests 18-year-old blogger: report

The Emirates Centre for Human Rights (ECHR) claimed Dec. 6 that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has arrested an 18-year-old blogger as part of a wider effort to crack down on perceived government opposition. The ECHR claims that UAE security forces searched the home of Mohamed Salem al-Zumer and confiscated several electronic devices before arresting him and transferring him to an unknown location. The rights group condemned this arrest and the continued practice of arresting peaceful dissenters. In the statement, the ECHR detailed further restrictive practices:

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