BANGKOK (Reuters) - A rights activist deported from the United Arab Emirates, whose case a U.N. official said raised “disturbing questions”, vowed on Tuesday to continue to fight for the rights of stateless people in the Gulf Arab state.
Human Rights Watch called Monday’s deportation of Ahmed Abdul Khaleq “unlawful expulsion” and part of a wider crackdown on dissent in the UAE.
Abdul Khaleq, 35, told Reuters he was not charged with any offence but assumes he was held in detention for nearly two months in Abu Dhabi because of his human rights activism and campaigning for the stateless.
He is a “bidoon”, a reference to the tens of thousands of people who live in the UAE without citizenship.
“Without an identity card, you are a dead man. You cannot do anything,” Abdul told Reuters.
A major exporter of oil, Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE, a federation of emirates where organized political opposition is banned.
It has avoided the political unrest that has toppled four Arab heads of state since last year, thanks in part to its cradle-to-grave welfare system. But rights groups have accused authorities of trying to silence campaigners and critics.
Abdul Khaleq, who was born in the UAE and has lived there all his life, was one of five activists jailed last year for insulting the state’s rulers before being pardoned.
He runs the “Emaraty Bedoon” blog and calls the UAE a “mafia without any rules”. As of Tuesday his website was still online.
He used a Comoros Islands passport he was issued in May to travel to Thailand which gave him a two-month tourist visa and also a warning not to do anything that hurt its relations with the Gulf state.
“He can travel in Thailand as a tourist but he must make sure his actions and any campaign activities in Thailand do not reach a level that affects the relationship between Thailand and the UAE,” said Sek Wannamethee, deputy director of the information department at Thai foreign affairs ministry.
Abdul Khaleq said plain clothes policemen in the UAE had taken one of his phones, handcuffed him and bundled him into a car before taking him to the airport, where he was told he would never be allowed to return.
He landed on Monday evening in Bangkok, where he was met by U.N. representatives and taken to a hotel.
U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a news briefing in Geneva: “Our office in Bangkok has already met with him. They report...that apparently he arrived with no luggage, he had been put straight on the plane from prison with just the clothes he was wearing and local currency Thai baht of around 270 dollars worth.”
Colville added: “There are a lot of really quite disturbing questions about this particular case.”
Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Editing by Alan Raybould and Jonathan Thatcher