Human Rights Watch (HRW) demanded on Sunday that UAE authorities immediately release and drop all charges against Emirati academic Nasser bin Ghaith and UAE-based Jordanian journalist Tayseer Al-Najjar.
Ghaith and Al-Najjar were arrested on several charges, at the centre of which was criticising the Egyptian authorities online.
Ghaith was arrested on 18 August 2014 by plain clothes officers wearing civilian clothes in Abu Dhabi on accusations of inciting hostility against Egypt, which the UAE said would harm UAE-Egyptian relations.
Meanwhile, Al-Najjar was arrested on 13 December 2015 without clear charges, but for his “online criticism of Israeli military actions in Gaza and the Egyptian security forces’ destruction of tunnels between Gaza and the Sinai region of Egypt”, according to a statement.
Al-Najjar has worked as a journalist for 15 years and had been working in the UAE since April 2015 as a culture reporter.
Following their arrests, HRW said Ghaith and Al-Najjar were kept in ”incommunicado detention”, where they were subjected to torture. HRW said that UAE authorities should immediately investigate the allegations of torture.
HRW deputy Middle East director Joe Stork condemned both men’s arrest, saying that “there is no justification for throwing a journalist, or anyone else, into prison for expressing a peaceful opinion”.
He also rejected the UAE’s practice of arresting people for expressing their opinions.
Ghaith is further accused of violating various laws of the penal code 2012 cybercrime law, and a 2014 counter-terrorism law as security officers found on his Twitter account six Tweets and images criticising the Egyptian president and government.
The scholar has only made an appearance at courts as there is no information about his whereabouts. Ghaith is scheduled to appear in court again on May 23.
HRW concluded its statement by rejecting arrests of civilians in the UAE for expressing their opinion.