A dual British and German national has been detained in the United Arab Emirates without charge for nearly six months.
The parents of Christian Wilke have appealed to the UAE to release their son, who they claim has not been charged with a crime.
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The 39-year-old IT teacher who worked at a school in the country was jailed in the UAE city of Al Ain on October 2017 for reportedly falling foul of the country’s social media laws.
A petition on change.org, a campaigning website banned in UAE, has so far garnered 220,000 signatures of a 300,000 target for Wilke’s release in little over a week since its launch.
According to a statement released by his mother, Wilke is being held in squalid conditions.
“Up to today we do not know the criminal charge is. Christian mentioned ‘electronic insults’ and says this could be something like sharing the wrong post on Facebook,” his mother Christine Wilke-Breitsameter said in a statement posted on the US NGO-run Change.org.
Wilke has been denied access to a lawyer for the first 52 days of his detention, she added.
Modelling itself as the Middle East’s financial hub, and a paragon of moderation in a region rife with war and economic malaise, the UAE has zero tolerance policy for criticism of its leaders and bad press, said the International Campaign For Freedom in the UAE.
Foreign nationals are often arbitrarily detained in the UAE, often only released once their home country intervenes.
The International Campaign For Freedom said:
In recent years, the UAE’s judicial system has drawn heavy criticism from rights groups such as Amnesty international for violating basic human rights of both Emirati and non Emirati citizens and acting in a manner that contravenes international law.
Since the institution of the cyber-crime law in 2012, scores of people in the UAE have been detained by authorities for comments made on social media platforms.
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In 2016 alone, around 300 people were detained as a result of their online such activity.
In November 2012 the UAE passed a draconian cyber crime law aimed at suppressing internal dissent and limiting free speech, according to Human Rights Watch.
The law issued by royal decree, imposes stiff prison sentences on anyone who criticises or ridicules the country’s rulers on the internet.
Following the outbreak of a diplomatic war between Gulf neighbours Qatar and a coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the UAE attorney general released a statement warning social media users that publishing posts sympathetic to Qatar would be punishable with 15 years in prison and fines of up to $136,000.