Global Freedom of Expression

United Arab Emirates v. Al-Najjar

Closed Contracts Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Electronic / Internet-based Communication
  • Date of Decision
    November 25, 2014
  • Outcome
    Imprisonment, Criminal Sanctions
  • Region & Country
    United Arab Emirates, Middle East and North Africa
  • Judicial Body
    Supreme (court of final appeal)
  • Type of Law
    Criminal Law
  • Themes
    Content Regulation / Censorship, Defamation / Reputation, Freedom of Association and Assembly / Protests, Political Expression
  • Tags
    Blog, Internet

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

On November 25, 2014, the Federal Supreme Court of the United Arab Emirates sentenced Osama Al-Najjar, a blogger and human rights defender, to three years in prison along with a fine of $136,000 for his alleged association with a banned Islamist group and his blogs on social media that allegedly harmed the reputation of Emirati institutions.


Osama Al-Najjar, an Emirati blogger who has been outspoken on social media about the ‘UAE 94’ case,  The ‘UAE 94’ case concerns 94 activists who were arrested and detained by the government for their alleged threat to the national security of the United Arab Emirates through their association with organizations that pursue “harmful foreign agendas.”

On March 16, 2014, Al-Najjar criticized via Twitter a broadcasted interview, in which an Emirati leader discussed the ‘UAE 94’ case. On the following day, police arrested him. He was charged with belonging to Al-Islah, a banned Islamist group, offending and instigating hatred against State via Twitter, and spreading lies about the torture of his father. 

Decision Overview

Judge Mohammed Al-Jarrah Al-Tunaiji delivered the opinion of the Federal Supreme Court of United Arab Emirates.

On November 25, 2014, the Court convicted Al-Najjar. First, it found him guilty of associating with Al-Islah, a designated terrorist organization according to Federal Law No. 7 of 2014. Under this statute, a terrorist organization is one that engenders a “direct or indirect terrorist outcome” and individuals who are associated with such groups can receive life-time prison sentence.

Second, the Court found Al-Najjar guilty of attempting to damage the reputation of Emirati institutions and to overthrow the state by spreading false information via social media. This ruling was made under Article 1 of the Federal Law No. 7, based on which “stirring panic among a group of people” and “antagonizing the state” can be interpreted as pursing terrorist outcomes. Furthermore, an individual who “publicly declares his animosity or lack of allegiance to the State or the regime,” as stated in Article 15 of the law, can be criminally punished.

According to the language and scope of the statute, the Court found Al-Najjar in violation of the Federal Law No. 7 and sentenced him to three years in prison along with a fine of $136,000.

Decision Direction

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Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Contracts Expression

Global Perspective

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Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

Case Significance

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Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

The decision establishes a binding or persuasive precedent within its jurisdiction.

The decision limits the freedom of press by imposing criminal penalties, including imprisonment against bloggers for their critical postings or reports against the government.

Official Case Documents

Reports, Analysis, and News Articles:


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