UAE rights activist detained for social media criticism

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A leading human rights advocate in the United Arab Emirates has been detained and is being investigated for cybercrimes that include criticizing the government on social media sites, according to a government statement published on Tuesday.

The state-run WAM news agency reported that the Public Prosecution for Cybercrimes office had ordered Ahmed Mansoor's arrest and that he will remain imprisoned pending an investigation into his alleged crimes.

The Dubai-based Gulf News said Mansoor is being accused of defaming the UAE on Twitter and Facebook, publishing false information about the country to damage its reputation abroad and promoting sectarianism. He is also facing charges that he encouraged people through social media to disobey UAE laws.

Mansoor was detained after a raid on his home in the emirate of Ajman in the hours before dawn on Monday.

He received the prestigious Martin Ennals Award last year for bringing attention to arbitrary arrests, concerns of torture and issues around the independence of the judiciary in the UAE. He's also called for a free press and democratic freedoms in the country ruled by sheikhs.

Rights groups are calling for his release.

Amnesty International said Mansoor was detained after 12 security officials raided his home and confiscated electronic devices. The rights group said officials did not inform his wife where he was being taken.

He was imprisoned in 2011 after being convicted of "insulting officials" and banned from traveling abroad due to his advocacy.

Human Rights First's Brian Dooely said in a statement that this most recent arrest is "frightening, given what we know about the treatment of those in custody in the Emirates." He warned that the arrest of Mansoor by authorities in the UAE, which is a close U.S. ally, will provoke international condemnation.

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