Reporters Without Borders said Saturday it condemns the possibly imminent deportation of Ahmed Abdul Khaleq, a blogger and member of a group of five pro-democracy activists known as the “UAE 5,” following his arrest on 22 May after being summoned to the immigration department in the northeastern emirate of Ajman in connection with his statelessness.
Khaleq is currently being held in Abu Dhabi’s Al-Wathba prison, but is due to be transferred to Al-Sadr prison (which is notorious for its mistreatment of detainees) and then to be deported to Comoros under a 2009 agreement between the United Arab Emirates and the Indian Ocean island nation.
Reporters Without Borders calls for his immediate release and suspension of the deportation process.
“By re-arresting Khaleq, the Emirati authorities have again shown the extremes to which they are ready to go to silence dissidents,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Their cynicism has repeatedly been demonstrated, above all in the comments by Col. Abdul Rahim bin Shafi of the interior ministry displaying complete contempt for public opinion and fundamental freedoms.”
Khaleq and other members of his family who, like him, are stateless, were told on 21 May that they would be given Comorian passports under the 2009 agreement that would allow them to continue residing in the UAE as Comorian “economic” citizens (without political rights) as a first step toward being naturalized as Emirati citizens.
To receive the Comorian passports, they had to surrender the documents showing they were stateless persons residing in the UAE. It was supposedly for this purpose that Khaleq was summoned to the immigration department on 22 May. But the authorities arrested him with the intention of deporting him, while giving his family the Comorian passports that will allow them to remain in the UAE.
Khaleq and the four other members of the “UAE 5” were arrested in April 2011 after issuing a petition calling for democratic reforms, and were held until late November.
The United Arab Emirates is listed as a country under surveillance in the “Enemies of the Internet” report that Reporters Without Borders issued in March. The UAE authorities recently stepped up their harassment of online dissidents.