Emirati court upholds 10-year sentence against activist

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A high court in the United Arab Emirates upheld a 10-year prison sentence of Emirati rights activist Ahmed Mansoor for criticizing the government in social media posts, local media and human rights groups said Monday.

The Dubai-based Gulf News reported that Mansoor's sentencing, which also includes a $272,000 fine, was upheld by a branch of the Federal Supreme Court dealing with state security. His lawyer did not immediately respond to calls by The Associated Press.

Mansoor was convicted of seeking to damage the UAE's reputation and relationship with neighboring states by posting false reports and information.

An electrical engineer with a master's from the University of Colorado Boulder, Mansoor was the recipient of the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in 2015. He was described as one of the few voices within the UAE who regularly raised concerns on arbitrary detention, torture and issues related to the judiciary. He also wrote about stateless residents in the Gulf, known as Bidoon.

In March 2017, Mansoor was arrested when security forces raided his home in the emirate of Ajman, confiscating computers and phones.

In the weeks leading up to his arrest, he had criticized the imprisonment of other activists in the UAE, including Nasser bin-Ghaith, an academic and economist who was sentenced to 10 years after his criticism of Emirati and Egyptian authorities.

Human Rights Watch previously reported that Mansoor had also used Twitter to draw attention to rights violations committed by the Saudi-led coalition at war in Yemen, of which the UAE is an active member.

Amnesty International's Middle East Research Director, Lynn Maalouf, said the decision to uphold his prison sentence "confirms there is no space for free expression in the United Arab Emirates." The verdict cannot be appealed, she said in a statement.

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