Freedom of speech may be on the back burner for the moment in the United Arab Emirates, which is threatening stiff fines and up to 15 years in prison for anyone who expresses sympathy or any other kind of public support for Qatar.
Officials in the UAE made the assertion Wednesday, just days after joining Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen in diplomatically isolating Qatar over what they say are the tiny, energy-rich nation’s ties to Iran and support for jihadi groups such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
“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,” UAE Attorney General Hamad Saif Al Shamsi said in a statement to Arabic media.
Authorities will take action against anyone making such expressions “whether it be through the means of social media, or any type of written, visual or verbal form,” Mr. Al Shamsi said, according to Gulf News, an English-language newspaper published in the UAE.
Gulf News also reported that the UAE’s Federal Public Prosecution office had announced that anyone who threatens the interests, national unity and stability of the UAE will face a jail term from three to 15 years, and a fine not less than Dh500,000 (about $13,600).
The office said such punishment was in accordance to the UAE’s Federal Penal Code and the Federal law decree on Combating Information Technology Crimes, Gulf News reported.
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Qatar is a majority Sunni Arab nation like the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but has long kept up ties to Shiite Iran, upon which Doha’s energy wealth is dependent. It has also preserved relations with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement that was ousted by current Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi in a 2013 military coup.