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UAE detains democracy activist, blogger in Dubai

Authorities in the United Arab Emirates detained a blogger and rights activist who had said he's gotten death threats for calling for political freedoms and an elected parliament in the Gulf nation.

Ahmed Mansour was detained Friday at his home in Dubai, his wife and a colleague told The Associated Press. Mansour's wife, Nadia, said 10 policemen — some wearing civilian clothes — searched their house for three hours before taking her husband into custody and seizing two laptops and several documents.

"They were calm and polite, but they did not allow me to speak to my husband while they were in the house," she said. A female officer was guarding her while others searched the house and questioned her husband. They refused to tell her where they were taking him, she said.

Another political activist and a prominent Emirati lawyer, Mohammed al-Mansouri, also reported the arrest.

Police and government officials could not be reached for comment.

There are no official opposition groups in the Emirates, a union of seven sheikdoms, and political parties are banned. The oil-rich federation has not seen the kind of unrest spreading around the Middle East and no protests have taken place since the uprisings against autocratic rulers in Tunisia and Egypt.

Last month, 130 people, including Mansour, signed a petition demanding constitutional and parliamentary changes in the Emirates, free elections for all citizens and a share in the country's oil wealth. A similar petition was also sent a few days ago.

Mansour told The AP on Thursday that he's been getting threats for signing the petitions. He also said he's been a target of a smear campaign on social-networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter after commenting on Arab revolts in the region and explaining Emiratis' demands for an elected parliament in the media.

The Emirates' current parliament, based in Abu Dhabi, serves as an advisory body. Its 40 members are either directly appointed by the ruling sheiks or elected by citizens hand-picked by the rulers to vote.

Abu Dhabi's Al Nahyan family controls the Emirates' vast oil riches and holds most government positions. The Al Nahyans also have considerable influence over the other six city-states, including the deeply indebted boomtown of Dubai.