U.S. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, has called on the new President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to release Emirati activist Ahmed Mansour and to start his term of presidency with an act of "wisdom and tolerance."
In a speech delivered by Durbin in the Senate chamber on Tuesday, the U.S. senator, who belongs to the Democratic Party, pointed to the suffering of Detainees of Conscience in four countries and called for their immediate release. He pointed out that these prisoners openly advocate democracy and fundamental freedoms.
Durbin pointed to the suffering of Mansour, whom he described as the country's last human rights defender, saying that he was arrested in 2017 for posts on his blog calling for reform and human rights in the UAE.
Durbin said Mansour was sentenced to 10 years, of which he has spent more than five years in prison so far. He is being held in solitary confinement, isolated from other prisoners, not allowed to contact his family, and has reportedly been tortured.
Durbin added that despite his poor prison conditions, Mansour remained unwavering in his commitment to human rights and undertook a series of hunger strikes to protest his prison conditions.
Concluding his speech by pointing out that America's strength in the world rests not only on its military and economic strength, but also on the strength of its values, Durbin addressed a message to the prisoners he mentioned in his speech, including Mansour: "You will not be forgotten... And we will continue to defend your freedom."
It is noteworthy that the U.S. senator's call for Mansour's release comes ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden's visit to the Middle East scheduled for mid-July, when he is expected to meet with Gulf Cooperation Council leaders, including the president of the United Arab Emirates, which will increase pressure on the U.S. president not to ignore the human rights dossier and the call for the release of detainees of conscience.