The United Arab Emirates warned on Wednesday that anyone showing sympathy with Qatar over sanctions imposed by its Gulf neighbours could face up to 15 years in prison.
The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic relations with Qatar on Monday and gave its citizens 14 days to leave, accusing Doha of supporting extremism. Qatar has denied the charges.
“The UAE attorney general warns that any participation in conversation or social media or any other means that demonstrates sympathy to Qatar or protests the position of the UAE and other states against the Qatari government may face a prison sentence of three to 15 years and a fine of no less than 500,000 dirhams,” said a statement carried by the Gulf News and Al-Bayan newspapers.
The four governments also closed their airspaces to all Qatari flights and banned Qatar-based news giant Al Jazeera. Saudi Arabia has closed Qatar’s only land border.
Like much of the Gulf, the UAE has harsh cybercrime and defamation laws which have drawn condemnation from international human rights groups.
Article 29 of the cybercrime law criminalises any online publication of information “with intent to make sarcasm or damage the reputation, prestige or stature of the state or… any of its symbols”.