UAE: prominent activist Abdul Rahman Bin Sobeih Al-Suwaidi has been released after being forced to deny mistreatment in prison

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On 16 June 2019, President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has decided to pardon the activist Abdul Rahman Bin Sobeih Al-Suwaidi. His release comes after a public interview made by the activist, in which he was forced to deny any ill-treatment and torture endured during his detention.

On March 2019, before his release the activist was interviewed by Sharjah Tv, Abu Dhabi TV and Emirates TV, to talk about his book, “Kabanjara” written in prison. During such interviews he was forced to give false testimony about the time he has spent in prison. Furthermore, he had been already forced to appear on Abu Dhabi TV and other Emirati channels on July 2017, where he was forced to deny his enforced disappearance, torture and un-fair trial.

Abdul Rahman Bin Sobeih Al-Suwaidi is well-kwon in the UAE for his charity work and humanitarian contributions to several Arab and Asian countries. He is also known for having taken part in the “UAE 94” group, which was a group of 94 peaceful and political activists who protested in 2011 demanding political reforms. Later, they have been charged in 2013 for their activism and Al-Suwaidi was charged in absentia and sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment. 

On October 2015, he was arrested in Indonesia for possession of false documents. His lawyer stated that during a previous visit to Indonesia for charity work, Al-Suwaidi lost his identity papers, namely his last option was to obtain a false version of his identification documents. On December 2015, he was kidnapped and deported back in the UAE. Once back there, he was subject to enforced disappearance. On 28 march 2016 he appeared in court where he was sentenced 10 years in prison, after his previous sentence of 15 years in prison was cancelled.

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) welcomes the release of Abdul Rahman Bin Sobeih Al-Suwaidi. Nevertheless, the conditions on his release rise concerns. Al-Suwaidi’s forced testimony may prevent other prisoners to speak the truth on ill-treatment and torture in favour of their release. Threatening prisoners is a despicable practice we strongly condemn.