Rights Group: UAE Deports Online Activist

The United Arab Emirates deported an online activist to Thailand on Monday after stripping him of citizenship, part of a widening crackdown on alleged anti-state challenges since the Arab Spring uprisings, a rights group said.

The deportation followed a separate wave of detentions this week of at least seven people suspected of plotting against the ruling system in the Western-allied Emirates, which has stepped up pressures on perceived dissent since the political upheavals across the region began last year.

The UAE is a key Western military foothold in the Gulf, including a base for U.S. warplanes, and has sharply boosted its oil-exporting profile with a pipeline that bypasses the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf — which Iran has threatened to block in retaliation for tighter Western sanctions.

The UAE has not faced street protests or violence over calls for change, but authorities have sharply increased web monitoring and other measures against groups urging for reforms in the UAE’s tightly ruled federation of seven emirates.

The London-based Emirates Center for Human Rights said activist Ahmed Abdul Khaleq was deported on a Comoros Islands passport arranged by UAE authorities in the first such banishment by the country. He is among a group of activists whose citizenship has been revoked by UAE officials after they campaigned for reforms.

Khaleq’s website included appeals for a greater public voice in affairs of the UAE, which bans political parties and allows only hand-picked voters to cast ballots for a national advisory assembly.

He was among five political activists — including an economics professor who frequently lectured at Abu Dhabi’s branch of the Sorbonne university — who were convicted last year of anti-state crimes after signing an online petition calling for a greater public role in politics. They were later freed by a presidential order, but the charges against them were not officially dropped.

It was unclear whether the UAE would seek further deportations. UAE officials had no immediate comment. Khaleq’s mobile phone number was inactive.

On Sunday, the Abu Dhabi public prosecutor said it was investigating a group suspected of plotting “to commit crimes against state security.” No further details have yet emerged, but activist groups say at least seven UAE citizens have been taken into custody.

Earlier this year, at least eight people, including a member of the ruling family of the emirate Ras al-Khaimah, were detained for suspected links to the Islamist group al-Islah, or Reform. It advocates a greater public role in the country’s decisions and emphasizes the need to retain strong Muslim traditions in a place where foreigners greatly outnumber native-born Emiratis.

Dubai’s police chief, Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, has repeatedly raised alarms about the growing influence of Islamist groups, including factions inspired by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which has won the country’s presidency and dominated the now-dissolved parliament.

Link: http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/rights-group-uae-deports-online-activist-16785516

UAE’s February PMI edges down but export orders up

Growth in business activity in the United Arab Emirates’ non-oil private sector slipped slightly in February as expansion in output and employment weakened, but new orders were strong, a purchasing managers’ survey showed on Monday.

The HSBC UAE Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), which measures the performance of the OPEC member’s manufacturing and services sectors, decreased to 52.0 points last month from 52.4 in January.

The seasonally adjusted index remains above the 50-point mark which separates growth from contraction, the survey of 400 private sector firms showed.

“The strong new order score is encouraging and suggests that growth may begin to build pace in the months ahead,” said Simon Williams, chief economist for the Middle East and North Africa at HSBC.

“For now, though, the February reading points only to stabilization and paints a picture of an economy still operating below capacity.”

Total new order receipts continued to grow in February although at a weaker pace, reaching 56.8 points after 57.5 in the previous month. Export orders for UAE non-oil private sector firms jumped to 55.0 points from 52.8, with respondents reporting the expansion was driven by stronger demand from clients in Africa and other Middle Eastern countries.

Output growth fell to the lowest level in five months in February, while employment only picked up marginally.

“The weak employment growth and wages readings are a particular worry while data showing that producers are unable to pass on higher input costs suggests their pricing power is still very limited and that their margins remain under pressure,” Williams said.

Overall input price inflation accelerated to a three-month high in February, the survey showed, while the staff costs index rose back above 50 after two months below that level.

A Reuters poll of economists in December estimated gross domestic product grew 3.9 percent in 2011 and would expand 3.1 percent this year.

Article: http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/03/05/198646.html