Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed Bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who is also deputy commander of the UAE armed forces, shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump at a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 21, 2017. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

UAE threatens 15 years in prison for expressions of 'sympathy' with Qatar

June 7, 2017 3:28 PM ET

New York, June 7, 2017--Authorities in the United Arab Emirates should clearly and immediately repudiate Emirati Attorney General Hamad Saif al-Shamsi's threats to imprison and fine anyone who criticizes the United Arab Emirates' stance toward Qatar or who expresses any "sympathy" for Qatar, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

In a statement circulated to Emirati media, Al-Shamsi said those who publicly criticize the Saudi-Emirati stance on Qatar could be imprisoned for as many as 15 years and fined no less than 500,000 Emirati dirhams (US$136,000) under the penal code and the law on Combatting Information Technology Crimes. "Strict and firm action will be taken against anyone who shows sympathy or any form of bias towards Qatar, or against anyone who objects to the position of the United Arab Emirates, whether it be through the means of social media, or any type of written, visual or verbal form," the statement said.

"The United Arab Emirates' threat to jail anyone who objects to the government's policy on Qatar is completely inconsistent with the image of a forward-looking, cosmopolitan, global hub it seeks to cultivate," CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said from Washington, D.C. "This is censorship of a scope so bizarrely broad it is almost totalitarian."

Kuwaiti efforts to reconcile Qatar with fellow Gulf Cooperation Council members Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain continued today, according to news reports.