British national detained without charge for 6 months in UAE
A British National, Christian Wilke, has been detained without charge for almost six months in the UAE.
Wilke, a dual British and German national, had been working as an IT teacher at a local school before he was detained by UAE authorities.
His mother has launched an online petition, calling for her son’s immediate release, which states that he was denied access to a lawyer for 52 days after his detention and contact with family was limited to a surveilled 5-minute phone call.
The change.org petition website, currently banned in UAE, has so far garnered over 200,000 signatories in little over a week since its launch.
The petition details the dire conditions in Al Ain prison. Wilke’s mother has expressed concerns about his deteriorating health, stating that “he has lost 18 kilos of weight”, developed pneumonia and “has been denied adequate medical care”.
The reasons for his imprisonment remain unknown, although the petition speculates that his arrest could be due to potentially contentious social media posts or “electronic insults” such as sharing the wrong post on Facebook.
There has been a direct link between the enforcement of the Cybercrime Law passed in 2012, which allows the authorities to monitor online activity, and the scores of people detained for comments made on social media platforms. In 2016, around 300 people were detained for voicing opinions on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The crackdown on cyber activities in the UAE is one of the many measures adopted by the authorities to curb freedom of speech.
In recent years, the UAE’s judicial system has drawn heavy criticism from rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for violating basic human rights of both Emirati and non-Emirati citizens and acting in a manner that contravenes international law.