New York, February 12, 2016 — The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned that Abu Dhabi has detained Jordanian journalist Tayseer al-Najjar for two months without disclosing any charges against him or allowing him contact with the outside world.
Airport security officers prevented Al-Najjar from boarding a plane to Jordan on December 3, 2015, without explanation, his wife, Majda al-Horane, told CPJ. Security officers at the airport told him to maintain regular contact with police, and on December 13 summoned him to the Abu Dhabi police station for questioning, according to his wife, human rights groups, and news reports. His family has not heard from him since, and he has not had access to a lawyer, al-Horane told CPJ.
“It is outrageous that Abu Dhabi authorities can hold a Jordanian journalist for months without trial, charge, access to a lawyer, or communication with his family,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “We call on police and prosecutors either to disclose what charges the journalist faces or to release him immediately.”
Al-Najjar, a former columnist for Jordan’s Al-Dustour newspaper, moved to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to work for the government-affiliated center Aljewa for Culture and Media in April 2015, according to al-Horane. He later co-founded Aljewa’s weekly cultural newspaper Al-Gharbiah, she told CPJ.
To date, CPJ has received no response to a February 4 letter to Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Emirati minister of interior, and several other Emirati officials inquiring about al-Najjar’s whereabouts and what charges, if any, he faces. Over the course of the past two weeks, CPJ also emailed the Abu Dhabi police, public prosecutor, and judicial department to inquire about al-Najjar’s case, but has received no response. The UAE Embassy in Washington responded to say it had no information about al-Najjar’s case.
Emirati officials have a record of detaining journalists. In 2013, Abu Dhabi authorities held Egyptian journalist Anas Fouda without charge or contact with the outside world for a month, the journalist told CPJ. Security officials interrogated him frequently and put him in solitary confinement before deporting him to Cairo, Fouda said.
Emirati authorities in February 2015 detained Omani blogger Muawiyah Alrawahi at a border checkpoint when the blogger attempted to enter the country by car. His trial on charges of using his blog and social media accounts for “inciting hatred and disrupting public order and social peace” and “ridiculing the state and its leaders,” began in September 2015, according to news reports. He is due to appear in court for a verdict on Monday after several delays, according to the Gulf Center for Human Rights.