The United Arab Emirates (UAE) have detained three political activists who have demanded the implementation of democratic and economic reforms.

The arrested figures comprise economics professor Nasser bin Ghaith, Fahad Salem al-Shehhi and Ahmed Mansour.

Mansour was arrested on Friday in Dubai after he signed a petition calling for an elected parliament. In early March, a group of Emirati activists petitioned the president of the UAE, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, to introduce sweeping reforms, including direct elections and a parliament with genuine legislative and regulatory powers.

Based in Abu Dhabi, the UAE comprises seven sheikdoms each run by a ruling family. Its 40-member parliament are appointed by the respective ruling sheikhs or by citizens picked by those rulers.

The seven states are Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain.

The Emirates permit no political parties nor opposition.