The five bloggers from the United Arab Emirates who were sentenced to between two and three years in prison yesterday were today pardoned. Ahmed Mansour, Nasser Bin Ghaith, Farhad Salem Hassan, Ali Al-Khamis and Ahmed Abdul Khaleq, were sentenced for "insulting" the leadership of the U.A.E. and fomenting discord by encouraging protests and a democracy petition.
Although we're glad the innocent men were pardoned (their "crimes" are crimes only in highly controlling states and are not recognized as such by organizations like the United Nations) it was clear that the message of both the prosecution and pardon was this: the leadership of the country owns you.
Reporters Without Borders describes a smear campaign that was conducted against the defendants after they were arrested in April.
"After their arrest, the UAE Five were the targets of a smear campaign launched on the Internet and carried by some local media outlets. Their critics, who accused them of treason, organised demonstrations outside the Abu Dhabi court and did not baulk at threatening the families of the accused.
"In a joint statement issued on 10 November the five accused the websites Lethal Character and Proud Emirati of being behind the campaign and of fanning a climate of hostility towards them and their families."
One of those threatening death was another Emirati poet, Antonio Salieri. I beg your pardon. That was a typo. I meant Saïd Bakhit Al-Kutubi.
The five had been on a hunger strike for several weeks.
The whole thing was a shameful spectacle. Given that the U.A.E. is, by and large, a very stable country, it was also an unnecessary one.