UAE: Fears grow for health of unjustly imprisoned academic
The authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) must immediately and unconditionally release Dr Nasser bin Ghaith, a prisoner of conscience whose health has deteriorated sharply in recent days, said Amnesty International today.
Dr Nasser bin Ghaith is serving a 10-year sentence for criticizing the UAE in comments posted on Twitter after a grossly unfair politically motivated trial.
“News that Dr Nasser bin Ghaith’s health has deteriorated sharply leaving him too weak to stand up and causing him to start losing his eyesight, is deeply alarming. He is a prisoner of conscience and should not even be behind bars let alone serving a ludicrous 10-year sentence based on a deeply flawed trial,” said Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East Campaigns Director.
“Instead of prolonging his suffering the Emirati authorities should order his immediate and unconditional release. Until then, they must ensure he is granted any medical care that he requires.”
Dr Nasser bin Ghaith has been on hunger strikes for various lengths of time over the past 75 days in protest at his detention and prison conditions. Since 7 October 2018 he has only eaten a small amount of food a handful of times and his health has severely declined. Before his imprisonment he already had high blood pressure resulting in cardiomegaly (enlargement of the heart) but he is not receiving his blood pressure medication in prison. He also has early-stage fatty liver disease.
He was sentenced to 10 years in prison on appeal in March 2017 convicted on charges that include “insulting the UAE” based on comments he made on Twitter regarding his treatment during an earlier trial. He was also convicted of “communicating and cooperating with members of the banned al-Islah organization”. During his trial, Emirati authorities restricted his access to his lawyer meaning he was unable to prepare a proper defence.
“The recent imprisonment of the British PhD student Matthew Hedges, who was convicted on spying charges after grossly unfair proceedings, shone an international spotlight on the UAE’s repressive practices. However, across the
country there are dozens of prisoners of conscience, like Dr Nasser bin Ghaith, who are languishing in dire conditions, unjustly jailed for peacefully expressing their views,” said Samah Hadid.
For more information, or to request an interview, please contact:
Lucy Scholey, Amnesty International Canada (English), 613-744-7667, ext. 236; firstname.lastname@example.org