The United Arab Emirates on Tuesday detained six Islamists whose citizenship had been revoked for alleged links to groups that fund terrorists, their lawyer said.
The six men “were summoned by the interior ministry and told that they have two weeks to get new nationality and legalize” their presence in the country, Mohammed al-Roken told AFP.
“They refused because this would be an impossible task and because they will always consider themselves UAE nationals,” Roken added.
The lawyer said the men were currently being held in Shahama prison, near the capital Abu Dhabi.
An immigration official quoted in Al-Khaleej newspaper said that the six were put in custody because they had “refused to legalize their status.”
Colonel Ahmed al-Khader told the daily they had violated UAE law by failing to sign a document pledging to acquire new citizenship within a government-set time frame of two weeks.
The UAE revoked the Islamists’ citizenship in December last year for allegedly threatening the Gulf state’s security and safety, a rare move for the emirate.
At the time, the UAE said the six naturalized citizens were being stripped of their nationality because they “had perpetrated ... acts threatening the national security of the UAE through their connection with suspicious regional and international organizations and personalities.”
They said some of the organizations were linked to entities mentioned in U.N. lists to combat terrorist financing.
The six had originally carried the nationalities of other countries and were naturalized between 1976 and 1986.
All of them have identified themselves as members of the UAE’s Reform and Social Guidance Association, which is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Some claimed to have signed a petition calling for political reforms which was launched by UAE intellectuals and activists in March 2011.
The UAE, a federation of seven emirates led by oil-rich Abu Dhabi, has not seen any popular protests calling for reform like those that have swept other Arab countries, including nearby Bahrain and Oman.
The government, however, has increased its clampdown on voices of dissent and calls for democratic reform.
Earlier this month, Reporters Without Borders condemned the UAE for the “arrests and trials” of online activists, saying the government was “cracking down harder on bloggers... who criticize the regime.”
Their condemnation came after the authorities shut down the offices of the German Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Abu Dhabi and the US National Democratic Institute in Dubai in late March.
The government said the two organizations were closed “because they violated license regulations.”
Human Rights Watch accused the government of shutting them down because of their “pro-democracy mandate,” saying that the closures were “part of a larger campaign against those demanding democratic change within the UAE.”