financial times:UAE detains leading pro-democracy lawyer
A leading lawyer for critics of the United Arab Emirates government has been detained as part of a wave of arrests that has been condemned by rights activists but authorities say is targeted at a criminal conspiracy.
Mohamed al-Roken, who has represented Islamists and pro-democracy campaigners, was detained early on Tuesday while investigating the detention of his son and son-in-law, activists said. The UAE government had no immediate comment on his case.
The arrest of Mr Roken comes after the detention this week of at least six members of the Islamist Al-Islah (reform) group, in what analysts say is a sign of official nervousness about dissent and the rising power of the Muslim Brotherhood in the region. In a separate case, another prominent activist, Ahmed Abdul-Khaleq, was deported to Thailand.
The office of the UN high commissioner for human rights expressed concern at “what appears to be an accelerating crackdown on UAE human rights defenders, calling for the release of those carrying out peaceful activities”.
“It appears that national security is increasingly being used as a pretext to clamp down on peaceful activism, to stifle calls for constitutional reform and on human rights issues such as statelessness,” said Rupert Colville, OHCHR spokesman.
The action comes after the official state news agency reported on Sunday that the government was investigating a foreign-linked organisation planning to commit “crimes against state security” and to “challenge the constitution and basic principles” of the country.
The agency said the public prosecuting authority had ordered arrests pending an investigation, which would look into the “extent of the conspiracy this group was planning”.
The UAE authorities regard Islah as little more than a proxy for the Muslim Brotherhood, whose growing influence amid the uprisings sweeping the Middle East was highlighted by the election last month of its candidate Mohamed Morsi as Egyptian president. Unlike some other Gulf states, the UAE does not tolerate domestic activity by the Brotherhood.
The oil-rich UAE has not witnessed street demonstrations like those seen elsewhere in the region, with a good number of nationals apparently satisfied with life under the country’s generous welfare system.
But increasing online criticism of some aspects of life in the country has unsettled the status quo, where tribal allegiances underpin a governing system characterised by public devotion to the ruling families of the seven emirates.