By Ria Novosti
An emirate paper said on Sunday that police in Dubai had arrested a blogger and a human rights activist, Ahmad Mansur, who has reportedly urged free elections and called for reforms in the country.
The National paper said police in Dubai had started a criminal investigation against Mansur but declined to specify the charges. The arrest happened at a time when massive public protests have swept across most of the Middle East and North Africa and have toppled long-time regimes in some of them.
Western media said earlier that another two bloggers of Mansur’s political forum Al Huvar (dialogue) had been arrested at the weekend. Access to the forum has been blocked. His blog unites researchers, intellectuals, former government officials and journalists.
On March 9, Mansur called on the government to hold free elections. Mansur and other forum participants urged direct elections of all members of the Federal National Council, a consultative government body, and said it should be assigned with parliamentary functions.
Presently, an electoral college elects half of the 40-member council, and the others are appointed by seven emirate heads.
The first elections in the history of the country were held in 2006. In March this year, the authorities promised to hold the second elections on September 24 to elect half of the council.
The government also agreed to triple the number of electors. Only 11% have a citizen’s status in the country of eight million. Political parties are banned.
Arab Emirates, the world’s third leading oil exporter, remains one of the few countries in the Middle East that has not yet been affected by street protests.