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UAE denies mistreatment of jailed activist

The United Arab Emirates rejected Thursday claims by rights groups that jailed activist Ahmed Mansoor was held in solitary confinement and mistreated in other ways.

The UAE’s foreign ministry said the “claims are categorically untrue”, in a statement quoted by the official WAM news agency.

Mansoor, 51, an Emirati citizen who earned a reputation for defending human rights in the UAE and wider Arab world, has been in detention since 2017.

His name recently reappeared in international media in reports that Israeli-supplied Pegasus malware was used to spy on journalists and human rights activists around the world.

According to Human Rights Watch, Mansoor helped shed light on the secretive Pegasus spyware in 2016, when he forwarded a suspicious message he had received to Citizen Lab, a research centre at the University of Toronto.

Mansoor was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2018 on charges of criticising the UAE authorities and tarnishing the image of the country on social media.

He was accused of spreading false information in social media posts — a verdict that activists said showed there was no space for free expression in the UAE.

HRW and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights had said in a January report that he was being held in isolation from other prisoners at Al-Sadr prison near Abu Dhabi, and had been denied a bed and mattress.

On Monday, HRW said a private letter he wrote detailing his conditions in detention had been leaked and was published last week by a London-based Arabic news site.

HRW’s deputy Middle East director Michael Page also called on the UAE to immediately allow independent monitors to see Mansoor to confirm his safety and welfare.

But Saeed Rashed Al Hebsi, director of the foreign ministry’s human rights department, said Thursday that Mansoor was well.

“Mansoor receives the necessary medical care and examinations and is in good health,” he said, adding that the UAE “maintains an unwavering commitment to and respect for human rights”.