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UAE strips 6 of citizenship, cites security threat

The UAE has revoked the citizenship of six nationals whom it said posed a threat to national security, but the men said they were being punished for demanding political reform in the oil-rich monarchy.

December 22, 2011 1:37 by

The UAE, the world’s No. 3 oil exporter, has avoided the kind of pro-democracy demonstrations that have rocked Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria, partly thanks to its generous cradle-to-grave welfare system.

But it has tolerated little dissidence during the upheaval that has redrawn the political map of the Middle East. Jail terms have been imposed on activists who sought greater power for an elected body and accused the state of bribing its citizens to avoid real political reform.

A statement from the official news agency said the six men originally carried other nationalities and had committed “acts threatening the national security of the UAE”. It said some of the men “had connections with suspicious terrorism financing organisations”, without elaborating.

Some of the men had signed a petition sent to the leaders of the UAE demanding that the country’s Federal National Council, an advisory body, be endowed with greater powers.

Earlier this year UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan pardoned five activists who had been convicted and jailed for insulting the UAE leadership, after they criticised UAE policies and called for reforms.

One of the six men stripped of his citizenship – all were affiliated with an Islamist organisation – said UAE officials had contacted him last week and demanded he hand over his identity papers.

“The passport office called us and said there was a decree saying that our citizenship should be revoked. They said they want all of our documentation, so we gave it to them,” said Muhammed Abdel Razzaq al-Siddiq.

Another of the six, Shaheen al-Housni, told Reuters the accusations against him and the other men were baseless, and denied that he had ever had another nationality. He said the men were targeted for their Islamist political orientation.

Pictures of the men covered in slurs have been circulating in Facebook and Blackberry messages, including an image showing the men’s photographs alongside an Iranian passport, with a caption saying they were a threat to national security.

The men whose citizenship is being revoked carry the names of well-known tribes in the UAE, which was established in 1971 as a union of former British dependencies in the Gulf.

The government’s move to strip the six of their citizenship has created a rift within the wide network of clans in the UAE, with supporters of the men trading insults with those who denounce them in social media.

“We’re afraid of a split in the tribal community… A fire, when it starts, grows then burns everything around it. Right now, there’s just smoke, but if it’s not stopped, it can be very dangerous,” said Ismail al-Housni, who belongs to the same tribe as one of the men stripped of citizenship. “I hope that people of wisdom will stop this and solve the issue officially.” (Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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