ABU DHABI // A man accused of mocking the UAE and its martyrs by sharing an offensive poem on WhatsApp is an illiterate camel herder, the Federal Supreme Court was told.
S A, 29, from Oman is on trial for sharing an audio recording of a poem that ridiculed the country and its martyrs killed in Yemen on the online messaging service.
“My client can’t read or write. He didn’t even hear the message. He foolishly forwarded a slanderous poem he received through WhatsApp to an online group he belonged to,” said his lawyer, Salem Al Ameri.
Prosecutors said S A broadcast information online with the intent of mocking the country, its leadership and its martyrs in Yemen by calling them traitors and cowards.
“The unpatriotic sentiments in that poem are not what the accused believes in. It does not represent his values. I won’t stand before you today, your honour, if he intentionally disrespected our martyrs’ great sacrifice this way. This was purely a mistake that landed him behind bars,” said Mr Al Ameri, adding that even if S A had listened to the poem he wouldn’t have been able to understand it due to his limited schooling.
“People receive all sorts of messages through online apps that they have no control over. Questionable content can land on your phone without your will,” said Mr Al Ameri.
S A allegedly posted the audio clip in September last year. He told the court he has been in prison for “around three months”.
Mr Al Ameri asked Judge Falah Al Hajeri to acquit S A of all wrongdoing.
“Accusing him of that crime is punishment enough, your honour,” said the lawyer
Judge Al Hajeri asked S A his profession and if he could read or write.
“I’m a camel herder. I work with camels and take care of them,” said S A, who told the judge that he had basic reading knowledge and only attended school up to grade 6. He also insisted that he never listened to the poem.
S A is being tried under the UAE’s cybercrime law number 5 of 2012 which criminalises all forms of electronic abuse.
A verdict was scheduled for February 29.