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US Congress members call on UAE to release rights activist Ahmed Mansoor

Democratic US legislators decry imprisonment of Mansoor, who has been jailed since 2017
'We urge you to release Mr. Mansoor and drop all the charges against him without delay,' letter says (YouTube)

A group of US Democratic legislators urged the United Arab Emirates to release human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, as the UAE continues to promote itself as a champion of tolerance.

In a letter to Emirati President Khalifa bin Zayed released on Friday, three US senators and three members of the US House of Representatives said human rights must remain at the "forefront" of the alliance between Washington and Abu Dhabi.

"Mr. Mansoor's continued status as a political prisoner undermines the UAE's human rights record, despite your declaration to celebrate 2019 as year of tolerance," the legislators wrote. 

'The United States and the UAE share regional interests, but the respect for internationally recognised human rights must always be at the forefront of our relationship'

- US legislators

"Accordingly, we urge you to release Mr. Mansoor and drop all the charges against him without delay."

Mansoor was arrested in 2017 in relation to his human rights advocacy.

Last year, he was sentenced to 10 years in jail after being convicted of insulting the "status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols".

Friday's letter was signed by key members of Congress, including senators Patrick Leahy, Richard Durbin and Sherrod Brown, as well as Congressman Jim McGovern, who co-chairs the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.

The American legislators also decried UAE security forces' mistreatment of Mansoor as reported by several rights groups and United Nations human rights experts.

The UAE has denied those allegations.

"He has reportedly been subjected to the very abuses that he advocated against, including solitary confinement, beatings, virtually no contact with family, and no access to water or even a bed," the US lawmakers said in their letter.

'Tragedy and disgrace'

In October, 142 rights organisations penned a letter to Abu Dhabi pleading for the release of Mansoor before his 50th birthday later that month, which he ended up spending in jail.

"It is a tragedy and a disgrace for the UAE that ... on 22 October of the UAE's 'Year of Tolerance', Ahmed Mansoor will turn 50, alone in a prison cell in such deplorable conditions, simply for exercising his fundamental right to free speech and for speaking out against human rights violations," wrote Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, among other groups.

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Despite its human rights violations, the UAE remains a close US ally, as Washington continues to rely on its Gulf partners to push against Tehran.

On Friday, the members of Congress said in their letter that the UAE's human rights record remains a concern.

"The United States and the UAE share regional interests, but the respect for internationally recognised human rights must always be at the forefront of our relationship," they wrote.

"Releasing a critical voice for such rights like Mr. Mansoor, who has already endured years of persecution, would be an important step in this regard."