Amnesty UK throws birthday party in Manchester for two activists locked up in the UAE

The Manchester chapter of Amnesty International (AI) celebrated the birthdays of two human rights activists being detained in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Members of the public and policymakers were invited to St Peter’s Square for birthday cake and to sign the petition calling for the political activists’ immediate release.

An oversized birthday card for the human rights defenders was brought to the square to be signed.

Labour Party Councillor for Burnage, Ben Clay, arrived to sign the card and show his support for the two activists.

Speaking with Mancunian Matters, Councillor Clay said: “These abuses bring shame upon the government of the UAE, and also upon those who have dealings with them.”

Dr Al-Roken is a human rights lawyer sentenced to ten years in prison in July 2013 after criticising the UAE’s leaders and its policies.

Ahmed Mansoor was also sentenced to ten years in prison after his arrest in 2017 for speaking out on human rights issues via his social media.

Councillor Clay went on to say: “The oppression of political activists is against the values of the people of Manchester.

“We are a city proud of our radical tradition and fierce defenders of our rights to freedom of speech.

“It is an embarrassment to our city that the Abu Dhabi Group, which part owns Manchester Life Development Company, also have a controlling interest in one of our great football clubs.”

Councillor Clay also wants the city to take notice of the abuses.

“I hope that Sir Richard Leese and others will use their close relationships with the UAE authorities to express our profound dissatisfaction with this situation.”  

He is hoping that they can exert a positive influence on them to pressure the UAE to promptly release the two men from prison.

The signed petition was sent to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, and Ruler of the Emirate of Dubai.

The maker of the birthday card was the children’s book author and illustrator, Chris Haughton.

Chris became active in the case after meeting Ahmed at the Abu Dhabi literature festival prior to his imprisonment.

The European Parliament has recently passed resolution condemning the detention of Ahmed Mansoor.

Amnesty’s Middle East Director, Lynn Maalouf, said: “The European Parliament has sent a strong message which should propel the international community to step up pressure on the UAE: to immediately and unconditionally release Ahmed Mansoor and other prisoners of conscience.”

Many people attending the event said that they wanted Manchester City Council to do more in tackling human rights issues, not to just turn a “blind eye” to the injustices because the financial interests the Council has with the United Arab Emirates.

Henrike Greuel, the member leading of AI’s campaigning in Manchester, said: “How can we celebrate 70 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights this year without talking about the human rights abuses these people experience in the UAE?

“Our council has strong economical relationships with the UAE. We, as citizens of Manchester, need to remind our Council leaders that we do not accept that our city deals with these countries without calling for an end of human rights abuses.”

An online petition has been setup by Amnesty International UK calling for the release of the two prisoners: https ://

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