Authorities in the UAE have detained six Emirati activists whose citizenship was revoked last December, after each refused to sign an undertaking to take on another nationality, their lawyer said on Monday.

After refusing to sign the agreements, they were transferred to Abu Dhabi’s al-Shihama prison, a facility used primarily for immigration offenders, said Mohamed al-Roken, the lawyer representing the group, who will appeal the removal of their UAE citizenship in court next week.

The arrest is the latest step in a deepening crackdown on political activity in the UAE, which has seen activists jailed, foreign NGOs closed down and a war of words erupt with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

The six detained on Monday are members of al-Islah, a local Islamist society that claims 20,000 members across the UAE. A seventh Islah member, whose citizenship was also revoked last December, is believed to already be in detention.

A UAE government spokesman declined to comment on the detention when contacted on Monday.

In an emailed statement, Ahmed Mansoor, a UAE activist who was tried and sentenced to prison – and later pardoned – in a high-profile prosecution of local dissidents last year, said that the six detained on Monday have been threatened with deportation as illegal immigrants. Authorities have demanded the six present new nationality documents from another country in order to obtain permission to remain in the UAE legally, he said.

Mr Mansoor told the Financial Times that the detentions were “a continuation of the escalation that the UAE started against activists in general and Islamists in particular … Being an Islamist here right now is very much a crime because they are tying that to the gloryfying era of Islamists in the Arab spring.”

When the seven were stripped of their nationality last December, UAE authorities said all were naturalised citizens of the UAE who previously held other nationalities. The UAE forbids dual citizenship.

A daughter of one of the six told Reuters that her father, Mohamed Abdel Razzaq al-Siddiq, was detained by police on Monday after refusing to sign a declaration promising to seek a new nationality within two weeks.

“My father called us … He refused to sign the declaration as now he is stateless, so he was detained along with the other five men,” Alaa al-Siddiq said.

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