Emirates Detainees Advocacy Center

6 years since the arrest of 4 Jordanians in UAE jails over a 'WhatsApp' message

13 Jul 2021
متوفر باللغة

Mother of Jordanian detainee in Emirati jails, Baha Adel Matar, appealed to King Abdullah II , to intervene and release her son and bring him back to the country.

Ruqayya Matar revealed in a video posted on her Twitter account that her son has been in Emirati prisons for 6 years, where he was tortured and beaten, and that he was not allowed to see his two sons, who could not see him, during that time.

Matar said that the family was surprised by the arrest of their son, who was accompanied by his friends, against the backdrop of a message posted on a "WhatsApp" group, and wished the Jordanian king to intervene to end their son's suffering.


In 2015, 4 Jordanians residing in Abu Dhabi were surprised by armed men in civilian clothes who stormed and searched their homes at night and arrested them without showing a warrant or informing them of the charges against them.

The four Jordanians, who are: Maher Abu al-Shawareb, Baha Matar, Abdullah Abu Bakr and Yasser Abu Bakr, were immediately subjected to enforced disappearance for a period of more than three and a half months. It was later revealed that they were held in a small cell, two meters long and one meter wide, in one of the secret detention centers of the state security apparatus (SSA), known as the Red prison.

special sources stated that the four were subjected to various forms of physical and psychological torture in order to sign charges related to "belonging to and promoting ISIS and publishing news detrimental to the interests of the state."

According to documents obtained by Emirates Detainees Advocacy Centre (EDAC), SSA failed to force them to sign, but they offer them to sign in exchange for their eventual release. After agreeing and signing papers they did not know the contents of, they were put on trial and their families were given only one week to leave the country.

However, the court was not convinced by the evidence presented by the state security apparatus regarding their affiliation with ISIS and said in the body of the decision, "The SSA officer's testimony was not based on conclusive evidence, as it was proven that the defendants' Maher Abu Al-Shawareb trip to Turkey was for the purpose of tourism and the available evidence did not prove that the defendants wanted to join ISIS.

Although the court acknowledged their innocence, it decided to imprison Maher and Bahaa for publishing "news that endangered the interests of the state." It later emerged that the "news" was a WhatsApp message to a group of the four young men, which contained news about the Yemen war spread from the mainstream media and accused them all of "promoting a terrorist organization", as a video circulated on ISIS that had been posted in the same group.

In other details about the case and the trial, it seems that the SSA found that the four young men had nothing to do with ISIS, so it decided to search their private messages and punish them for "talking about politics," even though it was a private conversation in which the court found no evidence of promotion.

It is worth noting that the court sentenced them to 10 years in prison and a fine of one million dirhams each, on charges of "promoting a terrorist organization by publishing and possessing public photos and videos."

The four defendants spent 6 years in prison, with Jordanian authorities ignoring their case.

In 2020, human rights defenders and journalists launched a campaign calling for their release under the hashtag #Jordanian_detainees_in_the_UAE, which led to widespread interaction with their families, but nothing changed in their case.

This year, EDAC hopes that the media campaign it is launching a week before Eid al-Adha will bring more attention to their case, until their release.