ABU DHABI // Sheikh Khalifa, the President, yesterday ordered the release of five activists convicted of threatening state security.
The five men were among 554 prisoners pardoned by the president ahead of National Day on December 2.
Ahmed Mansour Ali Abdullah Al Abd Al Shehi, Nasser Ahmed Khalfan bin Gaith, Fahad Salim Mohammed Salim Dalk, Hassan Ali Al Khamis and Ahmed Abdul Khaleq were convicted on Sunday of instigation to break laws, committing acts that pose a threat to state security, undermining public order, opposing the government system and insulting the President, the Vice President and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.
Mr Al Shehi had been sentenced to three years in prison; the rest had been sentenced to two years each.
"The pardon was a generous gesture," said Mr bin Ghaith as he emerged from Al Wathba prison yesterday evening to be greeted by family and friends.
Nadia Darwish, the wife of Mr Al Shehi, said she burst into tears when she heard the news yesterday afternoon.
"After all we've been through, I couldn't help it," she said.
The Federal Supreme Court on Sunday found the men guilty of threatening state security over posts they made on the internet. It ordered the website uaehewar.net, on which the men posted their comments, to be shut down.
The verdict was not subject to appeal, meaning the men's only chance of freedom was to be pardoned by Sheikh Khalifa.
The case centred on a series of comments the men had made on uaehewar.net around the time that protests began erupting across the region. The men had called for a boycott of FNC elections in September and had encouraged people to protest.
Article 176 of the Federal Penal Code allows up to five years in jail for anyone who publicly insults - in any way - the UAE's president, its flag or its national emblem.