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Bonn 19 April 2015. The Arab dictatorial regimes suppress criticism against anybody who dears to speak out against their authoritarian rule or uses his right of freedom of speech. In Saudi Arabia Raif Badawi and Waleed Abu al-Khair have been sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. In the Saudi dungeons hundreds of prisons are left to rot. Over 90 were beheaded in 2014.

The situation in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is almost as bad as in Saudi Arabia. The glittering facade in Dubai pretends normality and Westernization. The human rights lawyer Dr. Mohammed al Roken is a victim of this glamorous image. In reality, the UAE is a repressive regime like all the regimes on the Arab Peninsula. 

Al-Roken has been championing for political reforms and defending human rights in his country. He is respected for his impartiality and his respect for the opinion of others. His work centered around defending fundamental rights of other people. He called for greater transparency in the UAE, immediately thereafter the regime cracked down on him. For applying Emirati law to defend his countrymen, up till now, he spent a thousand days in prison. 

Together with 93 other human rights activists, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The trial was a sham, and the charges were made up. Allegedly, they were accused of "overthrowing the government". Before he was put in jail, the regime harassed and intimidated al-Roken.

Instead of putting him in jail, the government should have hired him as a consultant for civil liberties. Shortly before his arrest, a high member of the royal family consulted him on domestic issues. How can the government flip-flop its opinion?

U.S. President Barack H. Obama and the other world leaders should stand up for the freedom of Raif Badawi and Mohammed al-Roken and all the other prisons of conscience.

Ludwig Watzal

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