Middle East

UAE activist jailed for courtroom tweet

Families of detainees outside court building - picture from #uaedetainees(04/03/13) Image copyright #uaedetainees
Image caption Relatives of the detainees outside the federal courthouse in Abu Dhabi

A court in the United Arab Emirates has sentenced an activist to 10 months in jail after he tweeted from a courtroom where his father was being tried.

Abdullah al-Hadidi's father is one of 94 people on trial for plotting the overthrow of the government.

His son was charged under a new cyber crime law that came into effect in November of last year.

Human rights activists say the law is designed to suppress dissent in the UAE, a charge the government rejects.

Abdullah al-Hadidi was arrested March 22 after tweeting details of a hearing at the federal court house in Abu Dhabi. He was subsequently charged with disseminating false information.

His lawyer is reported to have said he will appeal against the conviction.

Mr Hadidi's conviction has alarmed human rights activists who say it is a further proof that the UAE is cracking down hard on social media and other forms of protest.

Ninety-four people, including his father, were arrested last year. If convicted, they face up to 15 years in jail, with no right of appeal.

The government alleges that the 94 were part of a secret cell with links to the Muslim Brotherhood organisation.

Most of those arrested, including Mr Hadidi's father Abdelrahman belong to the conservative religious society al-Islah.

Critics say al-Islah intends to replace the Emirati ruling families with a strict Islamist regime underpinned by sharia (Islamic) law, a charge that families of the detained and human rights organisations have rejected.

Some of the defendants have been in detention for nearly a year but most were arrested in July and August 2012.

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