File photo shows United Arab Emirates dissident Hamad al-Shamesi. (Image via Arabi21)
A dissident Emirati activist has said that the United Arab Emirates is cracking down hard on anti-Israel sentiment with 10-year prison sentences amid the Persian Gulf countryís push to establish formal relations with the Israeli regime.
"We were born and lived in the UAE and we know that the position of the Emiratis regarding Palestine is firm and definitive; the Palestinian cause lies in the heart of all Emiratis," Hamad al-Shamesi said in an interview with the Arabi 21 online newspaper.
Explaining why a limited number of Emirati activists had denounced Abu Dhabiís rapprochement with Israel, al-Shamesi said "the answer is very obvious, anyone who criticizes the government has to pay a heavy price".
"He may be condemned to pay up to one million dirhams (US $272,260) and 10 years in jail," he added.
"Unfortunately the government has stepped up its repressive measures against citizens and immigrants with a focus on security policies and controlling beliefs. People are paying a high price for this," he said.
Bahrain and the UAE signed controversial US-brokered normalization agreements with Israel on Tuesday during a ceremony in Washington.
The event was slammed by many Arab and Muslim figures as a blatant betrayal of the Palestinian cause.
Al-Shamesi added that the UAE government had engaged in a gradual campaign to stifle anti-Israel sentiment in the Persian Gulf country.
"The government has sought to change the minds of Emirati people and change the priorities in their minds and portray primarily Iran, and secondly Turkey, as their main concerns," he said.
The UAE dissident, who currently resides in Turkey, called on the countryís highest authority, the Federal Supreme Council (FSC), to step in and counter the agreement.
He added that while the FSC has a constitutional duty to approve or annul all of Abu Dhabiís agreements, the body has been gradually sidelined and neglected in recent years.
"The countryís future generation will pressure the FSC on how such an agreement was signed without its approval," he said.
Al-Shamesi added that the country once had a long-standing government-affiliated association focused on challenging the legitimization of Israel.
The association gradually eroded after having much of its members thrown in jail and was ultimately disbanded in 2013, he noted.
Last month, al-Shamesi was among a handful of the UAE dissident activists who set up an initiative named the "UAE Resistance Union Against Normalization".
Speaking to Arabic-language Arabi 21 online newspaper, the dissident Emirati activist expressed hope that the group can one day install itself in the Persian Gulf country.
"We hope to soon become an obstacle to the normalization of ties with Israel," Al-Shamesi said.
SOURCE: PRESS TV