Gulf Twitter Prosecutions Reach Abu Dhabi

May 21, 2012  

Abu Dhabi joined Kuwait and Saudi Arabia on Monday in filing charges based on Twitter statements.

Prosecutors ordered four detained on the charge of “tribal instigation and libel” through the use of Twitter.

Three Emirati men and a woman from PA enclaves in Israel have been remanded for 14 days pending investigation.

The incident dates back to last April, when the woman and the three Emirati men had a heated discussion on Twitter.

The discussion became more heated, and turned into an exchange of insults and accusations deemed “offensive to tribal sensitivities.”

A member of one tribe, whose name was specified in the heated disagreement, filed a complaint against the woman, but found himself incarcerated as well.

“Some people do not understand the grave consequences of their conduct on social networking sites, or over the internet in general,” an official with the Abu Dhabi Attorney General’s office told Gulf News.

“Such actions like libeling and incitement is completely outlawed, whether committed in the real world or the virtual one. This is especially true for those who think that it will be difficult for authorities to detect them. That is completely untrue.

“Detecting those who make such actions, like stealing email addresses, is an extremely easy and quick task. There are no problems facing authorities in combating such conduct. Moreover, ignorance of the law is no excuse,” the official added.

The official stressed that no one can get away with cybercrime, and that penalties in the case could include three years of imprisonment.

The United Arab Emirates, home of Abu Dhabi, is among the slowly-liberalizing and business-minded Gulf Arab monarchies faced with heightened tensions and rising political Islam amid the Arab Spring cum Islamic winter cum Arab Spring again.

Both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have sought to prosecute citizens for statements made on Twitter in recent months.

In the Saudi case – targeting journalist and civil rights campaigner Hazma Kashgari – King Abdul al-Azziz said “people are prosecuted for saying things that offend other people.”

However, the Abu Dhabi case bears the striking divergence that prosecutors are not targeting Twitter statements that simply offended Muslim sensibilities.

Instead, prosecutors in Abu Dhabi – which like the other emirates has pursued an aggressive course of economic, educational, and social liberalization – focused on slander that could potentially inflame tribal passions.

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