Charged with insulting the prestige of the state

UAE sentences Syrian human rights defender to 10 years in prison

8 Sep 2021
UAE sentences Syrian human rights defender to 10 years in prison

The State Security Department of the Federal Court has sentenced Syrian activist Abdul Rahman Al-Nahhas to 10 years in prison for belonging to a terrorist organization and insulting the prestige of the state.
On December 23, 2019, a state security force arrested al-Nahhas, the founder of the organization (Insan Watch Organization) that documents human rights violations by the Syrian regime after he sent an email to the French embassy requesting political asylum.
Since then, Al-Nahhas remained forcibly disappeared in an unknown location until he was tried in January 2021 and transferred to Al-Wathba prison, where he was allowed to speak to his family on the phone for the first time. However, the UAE authorities prevented him from any further contact as he revealed that he had been threatened and tortured during his detention.
During the phone conversation, which was recorded and obtained by Emirates Detainees Advocacy Centre (EDAC), Al-Nahhas, stated that the Public Prosecutor charged him with membership in a terrorist organization for his contact with the Al-Karama Organization for Human Rights and with insulting the prestige of the state due to the email he sent to the French embassy.
Al-Nahhas stated that the prosecutor threatened him with deportation to Syria and the death penalty if he did not sign confessions incriminating himself, and stated that he was forced to sign blindfolded papers whose contents he could not read.
It is noteworthy that on 18 May, EDAC sent an urgent appeal to Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, regarding the case of Al-Nahhas.
In its letter, EDAC informed Lawlor that communication with Al-Nahhas has been completely cut off since 7 January 2021 and he has not even been able to communicate with his legal representative.
EDAC expressed fears that Al-Nahhas would face a long prison sentence due to his human rights activism and urged Lawlor to put pressure on the UAE authorities to drop his case.
On August 25, Lawlor, along with a group of United Nations experts, sent a joint letter to the UAE authorities regarding Al-Nahhas, expressing their concern about his situation and pointing out that there was information proving the UAE authorities' intention to sentence Al-Nahhas to 10 years in prison, which had already been done.