Posts Tagged ‘Ahmed Mansoor’

Ahmed Mansoor: ten years jail for tweeting and a street named after you

June 7, 2018

Joe Odell's picture Joe Odell (press officer for the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE) wrote on Wednesday 6 June 2018 a long piece in the Middle East Eye about the “UAE‘s shameful imprisonment of Ahmed Mansoor“. As the last dissident voice in the Emirates is silenced, it remains to be seen who is left to speak out about injustice in the UAE, he states rightly. As I have posted regularly on him (see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/04/13/update-on-mansoor-in-uae-after-one-year-detention-appears-in-court/), will only refer to a few highlights in Odell’s article:

“Last week Abu Dhabi’s Supreme Court sentenced the awarded-winning Emirati human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor to 10 years in prison after finding him guilty of using his social media account to “defame the nation” by spreading “rumours and lies about the UAE” and promoting “sectarian feelings and hatred” among its citizens. It is a ruthless ruling for one of the region’s most prominent rights campaigners, who in 2015 won the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders after his tireless struggle for basic political and civil rights in the UAE.……

It was almost as if the UAE wanted to get this news out in a way that created as little fanfare as possible. Many hours were to pass before the UAE state-owned publication the National confirmed that this was indeed Ahmed Mansoor; international media promptly picked up the story within minutes – no doubt to the ire of the UAE government. Emirati authorities, however, are yet to give an official comment on the court decision. More pertinently, Mansoor’s exact whereabouts remains unknown, leaving the 48-year-old father of four at grave risk of torture and other forms of ill-treatment.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FMiddleEastEye%2Fvideos%2F1707420759323305%2F&show_text=0&width=476

…..Perhaps, in his heart, Ahmed knew this day would come. But he always refused to place himself above the struggle, telling journalist Bill Law prior to his arrest: “The only way to counter repression is by revealing it. And, yes, there is always that possibility that I will go back to jail. But if activists do not talk, who will?”

This knock-on effect has already begun. In the UK, pressure is now mounting on Manchester mayor Andy Burnham to issue a statement on Ahmed’s case after a coalition of 34 NGOs, including Amnesty International and the European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights, demanded intervention. This is a sensitive and fought over issue in a city whose council have burgeoning commercial links with the UAE, and whose football club is owned outright by the Emirates’ deputy prime minister, Sheikh Mansoor bin Zayed al-Nahyan. [see below]

…….Meanwhile, in north London, Arsenal supporters are now questioning their club’s links with the UAE, which began with their move to the Emirates Stadium more than 10 years ago. In response to Ahmed’s sentence, leading Arsenal fan website the Daily Cannon published an editorial calling for a review of the club’s sponsorship deal with Emirates Airline. Perhaps for the first time the UAE’s soft-power project in the UK now lies on contested ground, not only from regional foes, but increasingly from ordinary people across Britain….[ see also my: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/09/15/fly-emirates-if-the-emirs-let-you/]

And indeed on Friday 3 June 2018, campaigners in Manchester, UK, held a “street renaming” ceremony for Ahmed Mansoor and to highlight the city’s close links with the UAE government. Activists raised a banner saying “Ahmed Mansoor Street” in Manchester, to pressure the city’s council to bring up the case of the blogger who was sentenced to a decade in jail by UAE authorities this week.

The protest took place on Thomas Street, in the city’s fashionable Northern Quarter district. Supporters of Mansoor in the UK have asked Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham to help secure the release of the free-speech activist. The campaigners believe one way that could help is for Burnham to name a street after the 2015 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders laureate.

“As the first directly-elected Mayor of Greater Manchester you are in a unique position to show leadership on this issue,” a letter by Mansoor’s supporters to Burnham stated. “Your public support for a street named after Ahmed Mansoor – and calling for his immediate and unconditional release – would demonstrate your commitment to this heritage and these ideals.

Manchester has deep ties with the Gulf state, including companies and investment groups tied to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the de-facto ruler of the UAE. The football club, Manchester City, is also owned by leading Emirati royal Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

——-

Citizen Lab at big RIGHTSCON in Toronto

May 12, 2018

 RightsCon, held this year in Toronto from 16 – 18 May 2018, brings together an international audience to discusses all topics related to human rights in the digital age, such as surveillance, AI, censorship, access to the internet, etc. Citizen Lab researchers, fellows, and associates will be participating in panels and events throughout the week.Citizen Lab is the organization that helped Ahmed Mansoor with his iPone spyware in 2016: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/08/29/apple-tackles-iphone-one-tap-spyware-flaws-after-mea-laureate-discovers-hacking-attempt/.
 on 11 a run-down of topics and where you can find them:

Session name Citizen Lab participant(s) Date Time Room location
Artificial Intelligence: Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems and Peace Time Threats Ron Deibert Wednesday, May 16 14:30 – 15:45 206B
Access My Info: Exposing Disconnects Between Data Protection in Theory and in Practice Masashi Crete-Nishihata, Chris Parsons, Bram Abramson Wednesday, May 16 16:00 – 17:00 200C
Do We Need Free Speech Legislation like We Need privacy Laws? Moses Karanja Wednesday, May 16 16:00 – 17:00 201A
Scrutinizing the Little Brothers: Corporate Surveillance and the Roles of the Citizen Consumer and Company Chris Parsons Wednesday, May 16 17:15 – 18:15 203B
Crypto Wars Revisited? Hosted by the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic & Citizen Lab Wednesday, May 16 17:15 – 18:15 206C
Who Did it? Why We Need an International Cyber Attribution Organization to Address Nation-State Attacks in Cyberspace Ron Deibert Thursday, May 17 12:00 – 13:15 200C
Access My Info: Running a Personal Data Access Campaign Andrew Hilts Thursday, May 17 14:30 – 15:45 200A
Disappearing Space, Disappearing Voices: How the Chinese Government & Big Tech are Silencing Tibetans Online Masashi Crete-Nishihata Thursday, May 17 16:00 – 17:00 203B
Understanding Freedom of Expression in Southeast Asia: Internet Freedom and Online Censorship Irene Poetranto Thursday, May 17 16:00 – 17:00 TBA
Coders Free Speech Rights in The Americas at Risk Sarah McKune Thursday, May 17 16:00-17:00 201C
Journalism Free Expression and Digital Security Masashi Crete-Nishihata Thursday, May 17 17:15 – 18:15 205A
Beyond Security Updates: Providing Relevant, Accessible, and Sustainable Digital Security Advice Online Christine Schoellhorn, John Scott-Railton Thursday, May 17 17:15 – 18:15 201C
The Surveillance Tool We Love to Carry: Cell Phones, Searches, and Privacy in the Evolving Legal Landscape Lex Gill, Jon Penney Thursday, May 17 17:15 – 18:15 204A
How to win the privacy/surveillance debate Jon Penney Thursday, May 17 17:15-18:15 206A
How does the Kremlin Manipulate the Russian IT Industry to Exert Control over the Internet Ksenia Ermoshina, Jakub Dalek Friday, May 18 9:00 – 10:15 203A
A Technologist, a Policy Wonk, and an Internet Advocate Walk into a Bar: Assessing how Internet Communities Build Bridges for Human Rights Moses Karanja, Masashi Crete-Nishihata Friday, May 18 10:30 – 11:45 200A
My First Transparency Report Bram Abramson, Chris Parsons Friday, May 18 10:30 – 11:45 206A
What have We Learnt about 5 Years of Internet Disruptions in Africa? Moses Karanja Friday, May 18 12:00 – 13:15 201A
Tech Against Terrorism – Respecting Human Rights in Tackling Terrorist Exploitation of the Internet Irene Poetranto Friday, May 18 12:00 – 13:15 201B
Frontiers of Feminist Issues Online: Understanding the Tensions and Opportunities at the Intersection of Innovations, Digital Rights, and Security Irene Poetranto Friday, May 18 14:30-15:45 203A
Have We Entered a Brave New World of Global Content Takedown Orders? Jon Penney Friday, May 18 16:00 – 17:00 206C
CLE: Ethical Duties in the Digital Age: Encryption Done Dirt Cheap Sarah McKune Friday, May 18 16:00-18:00 206A
Online Anonymity: Key Lessons & Emerging Threats Bram Abramson Friday, May 18 17:15 – 18:15 200A
Chilling Effects, Surveillance, and the Future of Automation and the Law Jon Penney Friday, May 18 17:15 – 18:15 TBA
Big Brother is Really Watching: Digital Surveillance & Gender-based Violence Irene Poetranto Friday, May 18 17:15 – 18:15 206D

For previous event see: https://citizenlab.ca/2016/02/citizenlab-partners-rightscon-2016/

Update on Mansoor in UAE: after one year detention appears in court

April 13, 2018

Ahmed Mansoor – the Emirates’ most prominent human rights defender – finally has been taken to court after a year in arbitrary detention [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/21/emirates-one-year-later-human-rights-defender-ahmed-mansoors-whereabouts-remain-unknown/].

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) has finally received information about Mansoor, including the surprising news that his trial had already started in March 2018. There had been no news about him since September 2017. The second hearing took place on 11 April 2018, and as Mansoor still has no lawyer to defend him, no details about the exact charges are available.

In the weeks leading up to his arrest, Mansoor had used Twitter to call for the release of human rights activist Osama Al-Najjar, who remains in prison despite having completed a three-year prison sentence in March 2017 for his peaceful activities on Twitter; as well as prominent academic and economist Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith. The latter, who was jailed in a previous case with Mansoor in 2011, was also held incommunicado for nine months after his subsequent arrest in August 2015. He continued to be held in solitary confinement after court proceedings began, remaining in solitary for 19 months. On 29 March 2017, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for critical comments he had made online about human rights violations in the UAE and Egypt. On 2 April 2017, Dr. Bin Ghaith began a hunger strike to protest his sentence, which violated his rights to freedom of expression and fair trial. On 25 February 2018, Dr. Bin Ghaith began another hunger strike to protest poor conditions in Abu Dhabi’s notorious Al-Razeen prison, a maximum security prison in the desert used to hold activists, government critics, and human rights defenders. On 2 April 2018, GCHR learned that Dr. Bin Ghaith had been forced to end his recent hunger strike earlier due to threats made by the authorities to restrict visits after news of his protest became known….

http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1829

Emirates: one year later human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor’s whereabouts remain unknown

March 21, 2018

 

The authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) should reveal the whereabouts of prominent human rights defender and citizen-journalist Ahmed Mansoor and release him immediately and unconditionally, an impressive group of over twenty human rights organisations said on 20 March 2018.  This day marks one year since security forces arbitrarily arrested Mansoor, winner of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in 2015, at his home in Ajman. The UAE authorities have continued to detain him in an unknown location, despite condemnation from UN human rights experts and independent human rights organisations.

The authorities have subjected Ahmed Mansoor to enforced disappearance since his wife last saw him in September 2017. They must reveal his whereabouts to his family and grant him regular access to them and to a lawyer of his choosing.  Following his arrest on 20 March 2017, the authorities announced that he is facing speech-related charges that include using social media websites to “publish false information that harms national unity.”  On 28 March 2017, a group of UN human rights experts called on the UAE government to release Mansoor immediately, describing his arrest as “a direct attack on the legitimate work of human rights defenders in the UAE.” They said that they feared his arrest “may constitute an act of reprisal for his engagement with UN human rights mechanisms, for the views he expressed on social media, including Twitter, as well as for being an active member of human rights organisations.”  Since his arrest, Mansoor has not been allowed to make telephone calls to his family and has been allowed only two short visits with his wife, on 3 April and 17 September 2017, both under strict supervision. He was brought from an unknown place of detention to the State Security Prosecutor’s office in Abu Dhabi for both visits. The authorities have refused to inform his family about his place of detention and have ignored their requests for further visits.

In February 2018, a group of international human rights organisations commissioned two lawyers from Ireland to travel to Abu Dhabi to seek access to Mansoor. The UAE authorities gave the lawyers conflicting information about Mansoor’s whereabouts. The Interior Ministry, the official body responsible for prisons and prisoners, denied any knowledge of his whereabouts and referred the lawyers to the police. The police also said they had no information about his whereabouts. The lawyers also visited Al-Wathba Prison in Abu Dhabi following statements made by the authorities after Mansoor’s arrest, which suggested that he was held being held there. However, the prison authorities told the lawyers there was nobody matching Mansoor’s description in the prison.  Instead of protecting Mansoor, the authorities have detained him for a year with hardly any access to his family and no access to a lawyer of his choosing. Their contempt for human rights defenders and brazen disregard for their obligations under international human rights law is truly shocking. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/27/somewhere-in-a-prison-in-the-emirates-is-ahmed-mansoor-but-authorities-claim-not-to-know-where/]

Background to his case is documented in the joint statement and in my earlier posts: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/ahmed-mansoor/

Mansoor is a member of GCHR’s Advisory Board and a member of the advisory committee of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division.

Signed:
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain
Amnesty International
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
ARTICLE 19
CIVICUS
Committee for the Respect of Freedoms and Human Rights in Tunisia
English PEN
Freedom Now, Morocco
Front Line Defenders
Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
Human Rights First
Human Rights Watch
International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
Maharat Foundation
Martin Ennals Foundation
Moroccan Association for Human Rights
PEN International
Reporters Without Borders
Scholars at Risk
Tunisian Association for Academic Freedoms
Tunis Center for Press Freedom
Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights
Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH)
Tunisian Organisation against Torture
Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

http://www.martinennalsaward.org/ahmed-mansoors-remain-missing/

https://www.ifex.org/united_arab_emirates/2018/03/20/uae-ahmed-mansoor-1-year/

Somewhere in a prison in the Emirates is Ahmed Mansoor but authorities claim not to know where

February 27, 2018

 Two Irish lawyers attempt to reach human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, who is held incommunicado in United Arab Emirates, but in vain.

Today the Martin Ennals Foundation reports that on 26 February 2018, two lawyers from Ireland approached the Ministry of the Interior in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to try to gain access to distinguished human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, who has been detained since 20 March 2017 for his human rights activities. Mansoor, who received the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in 2015, is a member of the advisory boards of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR).

Given the widely documented use of torture and solitary confinement by UAE authorities, and the lack of any independent information regarding Mansoor, there are grave fears for his safety. Numerous organisations have expressed concern that he may be tortured and subject to ill treatment in detention.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/28/ahmed-mansoor-under-arrest-emirates-under-pressure/

In Abu Dhabi, the Irish lawyers approached the Ministry of the Interior headquarters, which is the authority controlling and running prisons. The Ministry referred the lawyers to the police, who are not responsible for prisons. The police then advised them to approach the Al-Wathba prison, which they did, only to be told Mansoor is not being held there. The inability of the authority responsible to provide any information on Mansoor is remarkable given that he has been detained for almost a year.

The mission was mandated by GCHR, the Martin Ennals Foundation, Front Line Defenders, the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT).

Background

Ahmed Mansoor was arrested by a dozen security officers at his home in Ajman in the pre-dawn hours of 20 March 2017 and taken to an undisclosed location. The security officials conducted an extensive search of his home and took away all of the family’s mobile phones and laptops, including those belonging to his young children. The family had no information about Mansoor until a statement was issued on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website on 29 March 2017 saying that he was in detention in the Central Prison in Abu Dhabi. Since his arrest, his family were allowed to visit him only twice – on 3 April and 17 September 2017, and he has had no access to a lawyer.

In their public statements, the UAE authorities have said that Mansoor is accused of using social media websites to “publish false information that harms national unity.” On the day of his arrest, the UAE’s official news agency, WAM, announced that he was arrested on the orders of the Public Prosecution for Cybercrimes and detained pending further investigation on charges of “using social media [including Twitter and Facebook] sites to publish false and misleading information that harms national unity and social harmony and damages the country’s reputation” and “promoting sectarian and hate-incited agenda”. The statement classified these as “cybercrimes,” indicating that the charges against him may be based on alleged violations of the UAE’s repressive 2012 cybercrime law, which authorities have used to imprison numerous activists and which provides for long prison sentences and severe financial penalties

In the weeks leading up to his arrest, Mansoor had used Twitter to call for the release of activist Osama Al-Najjar, who remains in prison, despite having completed a three-year prison sentence in 2017 on charges related to his peaceful activities on Twitter; as well as prominent academic and economist Dr Nasser bin Ghaith, arrested in August 2015 and sentenced to 10 years in 2017. Both men have been convicted of charges related to peaceful messages they posted on the social media platform Twitter. Mansoor had also used his Twitter account to draw attention to human rights violations across the region, including in Egypt and Yemen. He had also signed a joint letter with other activists in the region calling on leaders at the Arab Summit who met in Jordan in March 2017 to release political prisoners in their countries.

As a result of his selfless and tireless efforts to defend the rights of migrants and Emirati nationals in the UAE, he had become a thorn in the side of the UAE authorities and consequently the object of years of government harassment and persecution.

Since his arrest, a group of United Nations human rights experts have called on the UAE to release Mansoor, describing his arrest as “a direct attack on the legitimate work of human rights defenders in the UAE.” They said they feared that his arrest “may constitute an act of reprisal for his engagement with UN human rights mechanisms, for the views he expressed on social media, including Twitter, as well as for being an active member of human rights organizations.” The experts include special rapporteurs on human rights defenders, on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression and opinion, along with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

The lengths the UAE authorities will go to silence Mansoor are shown by their efforts to hack his iPhone. In a widely documented case, the UAE were exposed after Mansoor’s suspicions were raised and he contact the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto in Canada. Citizen lab released the following report: https://citizenlab.ca/2016/08/million-dollar-dissident-iphone-zero-day-nso-group-uae/

Mansoor, along with Dr Nasser bin Ghaith, and online activists Fahad Salim Dalk, Ahmed Abdul-Khaleq, and Hassan Ali al-Khamis were arrested in April 2011 and charged with “publicly insulting” UAE rulers. On 27 November 2011, a panel of four judges of the Federal Court found all five men guilty and sentenced Mansoor to three years in prison, and the others to two years. The four men were released the next day, after the UAE president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, issued a pardon.

For more information: khambatta@martinennalsaward.org or visit www.martinennalsaward.org

2017 was a grim year for imprisoned technologists

December 29, 2017

Prison Hands

Since its founding, EFF has highlighted and defended cases of injustice and fearmongering perpetrated against innocent technologists. We advocate for unjustly imprisoned technologists and bloggers with our Offline project. In 2017, we continue to see fear being whipped up against those who oppose oppression with modern tools—as well as those who have done nothing more than teach and share technology so that we can all use and understand it better:

Dmitry Bogatov, software developer and math lecturer at Moscow’s Finance and Law University. Bogatov ran a volunteer Tor relay, allowing people around the world to protect their identities as they used the Internet. It was one part of his numerous acts of high-tech public service, which include co-maintaining Xmonad and other Haskell software for the Debian project. For his generosity, Bogatov has now spent over a hundred days in pretrial detention, wrongfully accused of posting extremist materials that were allegedly sent via through Tor server. Law enforcement officials around the world understand that data that appears to originate from a particular Tor machine is, in fact, traffic from its anonymised users. But that didn’t stop Bogatov’s prosecutors in Russia from accusing him of sending the data himself, under a pseudonym, to foment riots—and added new charges of “inciting terrorism” when a judge suggested the earlier charge was too weak to hold Bogatov in pre-trial detention.

Ahmed Mansoor, of the United Arab Emirates. Mansoor has been a tireless voice for victims of human rights abuses in the United Arab Emirates. In 2011, amidst the Arab uprisings, he was one of five Emirati citizens to be sentenced to prison for his social media postings. That case provoked international condemnation, and the group was soon pardoned. Mansoor was subsequently targeted with sophisticated government spyware on his iPhone; he recognised and passed on the malware link to experts, which led to the discovery of three previously unknown vulnerabilities in Apple’s iOS. In April, Mansoor was seized by the UAE authorities again. On the day of his arrest, the UAE’s official news agency saying that he had been arrested on the orders of the Public Prosecution for Cybercrimes and accused of using social media to promote sectarianism and hate, among other charges. Mansoor’s family did not hear from him for two weeks, and he has been denied access to a lawyer. Just a year ago, Apple was able to roll out a security fix to their users because of Mansoor’s swift, transparent, and selfless actions. Millions of people are safer because of Ahmed’s actions, even as his family fears for his own physical and mental safety. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/28/ahmed-mansoor-under-arrest-emirates-under-pressure/]

Alaa abd el-Fattah ran Linux installfests across the Middle-East and was a key online voice in the Egyptian uprising. Since then he has been jailed, in turn, by the democratically elected Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, and then when Morsi was overthrown in a coup, by incoming President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. Alaa’s appeal against a five year prison sentence for protesting—widely seen as a means to silence him on social media—was refused in November of this yearAmnesty and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention have both condemned Alaa’s continuing imprisonment.

Another long-term case is that of Saeed Malekpour, who has been in jail in Iran since 2008. Malekpour returned from Canada to visit his sick Iranian father in October of that year, at a time when the Iranian Revolutionary Guard was starting to target technologists and Internet experts. As an open source coder, Malekpour had written a free front-end image management utility for websites. The Guard found this software on a Farsi pornography site, and used it to as a pretext to seize Malekpour from the streets of Tehran, charge him with running the web site, and sentencing him to death. Malekpour’s death sentence has been anulled twice following international pressure, but a change of government in his home country of Canada risked reducing the level of support for Malekpour. A campaign to encourage the new Trudeau administration to continue to advocate for Malekpour, even as Canada seeks to normalize relations with Iran, seems to be working. One of Malekpour’s advocates, former Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, has said that the Canadian government is now working on the case. The continuing monitoring of Malekpour’s life sentence is a small consolation, but better than the alternative.

Peter Steudtner and Ali Gharavi travel the world, teaching and advising Internet users on how to improve their privacy and digital security online (Ali was an advisor for EFF’s Surveillance Self-Defence project). The two were arrested in a raid by Turkish police on a digital security workshop in July in Istanbul, along with Amnesty Turkeys’ director, Idil Eser, and eight other human rights defenders. The two technology consultants have been accused of aiding terrorists, despite the long history of both as peaceful advocates for secure online practices. After months of detention, concentrated diplomatic and public pressure led to both being released to join their families in Germany and Sweden. We’re delighted that they are free, but their unjust prosecution—and that of their Turkish colleagues—continues in the Turkish courts. 

Bassel Khartabil, the Syrian free culture advocate. Before his arrest and torture in 2012, Bassel was the driving force behind countless projects to turn technology for the public good in his country. He founded a hackerspace in Damascus, translated Creative Commons into a Middle Eastern context, and built out Wikipedia and Mozilla for his fellow Syrians. Bassel’s generosity brought him notability and respect. His prominence and visibility as a voice outside the divided political power-bases of Syria made him an early target when the Syrian civil war became violent. Bassel was killed by the Syrian government in 2015, shortly after he was removed from a civilian prison and sent into the invisibility of Syria’s hidden security complexes.

 

https://personalliberty.com/grim-year-imprisoned-technologists-2017-review/

BBC investigation on Arab States and import of cyber-surveillance tools

June 16, 2017

On 15 June 2017 the BBC came out with a special report on “How BAE sold cyber-surveillance tools to Arab states’A dancer tucks his Apple iPhone next to his traditional Omani dagger during a welcome ceremony in Muscat, Oman (5 November 2016).

A year-long investigation by BBC Arabic and a Danish newspaper [Dagbladet Information] has uncovered evidence that the UK defence giant BAE Systems has made large-scale sales across the Middle East of sophisticated surveillance technology, including to many repressive governments. These sales have also included decryption software which could be used against the UK and its allies. While the sales are legal, human rights campaigners and cyber-security experts have expressed serious concerns these powerful tools could be used to spy on millions of people and thwart any signs of dissent. The investigation began in the small Danish town of Norresundby, home to ETI, a company specialising in high-tech surveillance equipment. ETI developed a system called Evident, which enabled governments to conduct mass surveillance of their citizens’ communications. A former employee, speaking to the BBC anonymously, described how Evident worked. “You’d be able to intercept any internet traffic,” he said. “If you wanted to do a whole country, you could. You could pin-point people’s location based on cellular data. You could follow people around. They were quite far ahead with voice recognition. They were capable of decrypting stuff as well.”

 

Image copyright GETTY IMAGES

A video clip accompanying the article is to be found on the website of the BBC (see link below) and it features Ahmed Mansoor, the 2015 Laureate of the Martin Ennals Award.[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/21/ahmed-mansoor-mea-laureate-2015-arrested-in-middle-of-the-night-raid-in-emirates/]

One early customer of the new system was the Tunisian government. The BBC tracked down a former Tunisian intelligence official who operated Evident for the country’s veteran leader, President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. “ETI installed it and engineers came for training sessions,” he explained. “[It] works with keywords. You put in an opponent’s name and you will see all the sites, blogs, social networks related to that user.” The source says President Ben Ali used the system to crack down on opponents until his overthrow in January 2011, in the first popular uprising of the Arab Spring. As protests spread across the Arab world, social media became a key tool for organisers. Governments began shopping around for more sophisticated cyber-surveillance systems – opening up a lucrative new market for companies like BAE Systems. In 2011, BAE bought ETI and the company became part of BAE Systems Applied Intelligence. Over the next five years, BAE used its Danish subsidiary to supply Evident systems to many Middle Eastern countries with questionable human rights records (such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Morocco and Algeria).

 

“I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said more than 90% of the most active campaigners in 2011 have now vanished,” says Yahya Assiri, a former Saudi air force officer who fled the country after posting pro-democracy statements online.  “It used to be that ‘the walls have ears’, but now it’s ‘smartphones have ears,‘” says Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi women’s rights activist who also now lives abroad. “No country monitors its own people the way they do in the Gulf countries. They have the money, so they can buy advanced surveillance software.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/12/13/five-women-human-rights-defenders-from-the-middle-east/]

Manal al-Sharif
Manal al-Sharif says Gulf states have the money to buy advanced surveillance equipment‘Responsible trading’

….The BBC has obtained a 2015 email exchange between the British and Danish export authorities in which the British side clearly expresses concern about this capability with reference to an Evident sale to the United Arab Emirates. “We would refuse a licence to export this cryptanalysis software from the UK because of Criteria 5 concerns,” says the email. [“Criteria 5” refers to the national security of the UK and its allies.]…Despite British objections, the Danish authorities approved the Evident export…..

…….Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake is one of the few European politicians prepared to discuss concerns about surveillance technology exports. She says European countries will ultimately pay a price for the compromises now being made. “Each and every case where someone is silenced or ends up in prison with the help of EU-made technologies I think is unacceptable,” she told the BBC. “I think the fact that these companies are commercial players, developing these highly sophisticated technologies that could have a deep impact on our national security, on people’s lives, requires us to look again at what kind of restrictions maybe be needed, what kind of transparency and accountability is needed in this market before it turns against our own interest and our own principles.

Source: How BAE sold cyber-surveillance tools to Arab states – BBC News

https://twitter.com/hashtag/freeahmed

UAE: it is not just Ahmed Mansoor – academic Nasser Bin Ghaith gets 10 year for tweets

March 31, 2017

Middle East Eye reported on 31 March 2017 that the Emirates (UAE) had sentenced human rights defender Nasser Bin Ghaith to 10 years for ‘offensive online posts‘ (i.e. that criticised Egypt).

Dr Nasser bin Ghaith speaking at a conference (ADHRB)

After all the attention on the recent arrest of MEA Laureate, Ahmed Mansoor [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/ahmed-mansoor/], it is good to point out that he is not the only one being silenced in the UAE. On Wednesday Nasser Bin Ghaith was sentenced to 10 years in jail. Ghaith told the court he had been beaten and deprived of sleep for up to a week at a time by prison guards. The court did not specify which social media posts the charge related to or what they said. The authorities said he had published “photos and articles that are offensive to the state’s symbols and values, its internal and foreign policies and its relations with an Arab state,” which is understood to refer to Egypt. Ghaith is an Emirati economist who has lectured at the Abu Dhabi campus of the Paris-based Sorbonne University. He also worked as an economic and legal consultant to the UAE army.”By imposing this ludicrous sentence in response to his peaceful tweets, the authorities have left no room for doubt: those who dare to speak their minds freely in the UAE today risk grave punishment,” declared Lynn Maalouf, deputy director for research at Amnesty International. Amnesty called Ghaith “a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned for the peaceful expression of his conscientiously held beliefs.”  See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/05/18/uae-emirates-human-rights-defender-nasser-bin-ghaith-ngos-censorship/

For background see the older links:
Amnesty International: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2015/08/uae-press-release/ Amnesty International: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde25/2299/2015/en/
Human Rights Watch: https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/08/24/uae-reveal-whereabouts-academic

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/detention-nasser-bin-ghaith

Source: 10 years for a tweet: UAE jails academic for criticising Egypt | Middle East Eye

Ahmed Mansoor under arrest – Emirates under pressure

March 28, 2017

The importance of Ahmed Mansoor – MEA Laureate 2015 – as human rights defender and as the most important source of information on human rights in the Emirates (UAE) has been demonstrated by the international response to his sudden arrest [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/21/ahmed-mansoor-mea-laureate-2015-arrested-in-middle-of-the-night-raid-in-emirates/ ]. In addition to many newspaper and social media, there have been two important statements this morning:

The UN Special Procedures have called for Ahmed Mansoor’s release:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21449&LangID=E,

And so has the Chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights of the EU Parliament  http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/20170328IPR68805/droi-chair-calls-on-uae-to-unconditionally-release-ahmed-mansoor 

In view of the link between Manchester and UAE airlines (Emirates and Ethiad) it is specially interesting to note that AI Manchester has joined the campaign to free Ahmed Mansoor:

Ahmed Mansoor, MEA Laureate 2015, arrested in middle-of-the-night raid in Emirates

March 21, 2017

Ahmed Mansoor’s whereabouts are unknown © Martin Ennals Foundation

On 20 March, 2017, around midnight, Mr. Ahmed Mansoor was arrested at his home in Ajman, UAE, by a large team of the Emirates’ security forces. The Government has finally confirmed that it is holding him, but until today we don’t know where. The reasons for his arrest remain unknown but might be linked to a series of tweets he posted on Twitter in recent days, calling for the release of UAE human rights defender Osama Al-Najjar or to a letter that he signed, along with other activists in the region, calling for the release of all prisoners of conscience in the Middle East ahead of an Arab League Summit scheduled to be held in Jordan on 29 March 2017.

Following a massive crackdown on human rights defenders in the UAE in recent years, Ahmed Mansoor is today widely respected as the only independent voice still speaking out through his blog and Twitter account against human rights violations from inside the country. He was the Laureate of the Martin Ennals Award 2015. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/10/07/the-link-to-the-full-mea-2015-ceremony-of-6-october/]. Mr. Mansoor has faced repeated intimidation, harassment, and death threats from the UAE authorities or their supporters, including arrest and imprisonment in 2011 following an unfair trial. Although pardoned and released later that year, the UAE authorities have arbitrarily imposed a travel ban on him. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/09/15/fly-emirates-if-the-emirs-let-you/]

In August 2016 Ahmed Mansoor was at the centre of a hacking scandal involving Apple’s iOS operating system [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/08/29/apple-tackles-iphone-one-tap-spyware-flaws-after-mea-laureate-discovers-hacking-attempt/]

Sources:

UAE: alarm at middle-of-the-night arrest of leading human rights activist | Amnesty International UK

http://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/urgent-interventions/united-arab-emirates/2017/03/d24255/