Document - Oman: Protesters and writers detained in Oman

URGENT ACTION

UA: 174/12 Index: MDE 20/001/2012 Oman Date: 19 June 2012

URGENT ACTION

protesters and writers detained in oman

More than 21 people remain in detention following a series of arrests of activists, writers, lawyers, and bloggers that began on 31 May. They may be prisoners of conscience.

The arrests began on 31 May when the Special Division of Omani Police detained three activists who tried to travel to Fohoud oil field, approximately 250km south-west of Muscat, to document an oil workers’ strike that started a week earlier. The three - lawyer Yaqoub al-Kharousi and activists Habeeba al-Hina’i and Ismail al-Muqbali from the newly formed Omani group for human rights - were reportedly charged in connection with inciting a protest. They were held incommunicado for five days before being allowed contact with their families. Habeeba al-Hina’i and Yaqoub al-Kharousi were released on bail on 4 June, but Ismail al-Muqbali remains in detention.

Following this more arrests took place of writers and activists on 2, 7 and 8 June. On 11 June, the authorities arrested at least 22 people who were protesting peacefully outside the police headquarters in Muscat, including Basma al-Kiyumi, a prominent lawyer. The protesters were calling for the release of those who had been arrested since 31 May. Two of the at least 22 arrested on 11 June were released shortly after.

On 16 June 10 of the detainees were released without charge after signing pledges admitting that they had contravened laws and would not repeat their actions. Amnesty International has the names of 21 people still in detention, but the actual number may be higher. It is believed that those still detained continue to be held because they have refused to sign such pledges.

Several detainees have gone on hunger strike in protest against their ongoing detention. The health situation of some of those on hunger strike has deteriorated. One of the men, Sa’eed al-Hashimi, was admitted to Sumail Hospital on 14 June after he was believed to have lost consciousness. He was returned to prison but was recently re-admitted. It is believed that he is continuing his hunger strike and that his family has not been allowed to visit him yet. Another activist, Basimah al-Rajihi, was also recently reported to have vomited blood.

Please write immediately in Arabic, English or your own language:

Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all detainees held solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly;

Asking for details of any charges they face to be revealed and calling on the authorities to ensure that any legal proceedings against them conform to international fair trial standards;

Urging the authorities to ensure that they are protected from torture and other ill-treatment and given immediate access to their families, lawyers and any medical attention they need.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 31 JULY 2012 TO:

His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Sa’id

Head of State, Prime Minister, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Finance Minister

Diwan of the Royal Court

The Palace

Muscat 113

Sultanate of Oman

Fax: +968 24 735 375

Salutation: Your Majesty

His Excellency Sayyid Hamoud bin Faisal bin Said Al Busaidi

Minister of the Interior

Ministry of Interior

PO Box 127

Ruwi 112

Muscat

Sultanate of Oman

Salutation: Your Excellency

And copies to:

Mr Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Riyami

Chairman

National Human Rights Commission

P.O. Box 29, Postal Code: 103

Bareq A' Shati

Muscat, Sultanate of Oman

Fax: +968 24648801

Email: enquiry@nhrc.om

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please insert local diplomatic addresses below:

Name Address 1 Address 2 Address 3 Fax Fax number Email Email address Salutation Salutation

Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.

URGENT ACTION

protesters and writers detained in oman

ADditional Information

Protests in Oman in January and February 2011 – sparked by popular unrest across the Middle East and North Africa – led to a number of reforms. On 27 February 2011 Oman’s head of state, Sultan Qaboos, ordered the creation of 50,000 jobs and 150 Omani riyals a month (approximately US$390) in benefits for the unemployed in response to protesters’ demands. On 7 March, Sultan Qaboos made a wide-ranging reshuffle and restructuring of the cabinet, sacking a number of ministers.

However, the Omani authorities have continued to maintain strict restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly and protests against the authorities have continued intermittently since March 2011. Protesters have voiced the need for greater freedom of the press and for certain current and former ministers to be held to account for offences they are alleged to have committed while in office. Scores of protesters were arrested and many brought to trial in 2011, while at least one man was reported to have died when police forcibly dispersed protesters in the town of Sohar.

Several of the activists arrested in the recent crackdown were previously arrested in 2011. For instance, Basma al-Kiyumi, who was detained on 11 June 2012, had been previously arrested on 14 May 2011 during a peaceful protest in front of the Shura Council in Muscat, along with 14 others, and was released on bail two days later after being charged with participating in an unlawful gathering (see UA 142/11 ‘Detained protesters at risk in Oman’ at http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/mde20/003/2011 and ‘Protesters released, others still detained’ at http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/mde20/004/2011). A number of bloggers and journalists had also been targeted in recent years after criticizing the government.

Following the arrest of three activists on 31 May the Public Prosecution issued a number of statements, one of them saying legal action would be taken against anyone who publishes “offensive writing” in the media or online that is deemed to be “inciting” others to action “under the “the pretext of freedom of expression”. On 10 June a public prosecutor confirmed the arrests in the Times of Oman, saying “we are keeping a watch on the bloggers who use such platforms”.

Another statement by the Public Prosecution, which was issued in English on the Oman News Agency website on 13 June, said,

“It has been noticed that there are growing participations and negative writings on discussion forums, social networking websites and mobile applications. These writings include libels, spreading rumors, provoking sit-ins and strikes. Such writings are against values and morals of the Omani society, principles of the freedom of expression, as well as objectives of the constructive criticism. Such practice prejudices the national security and public interests. It is also a violation of the laws in force… A number of violators and perpetrators, who have been recently arrested, will be interrogated and referred to the judicial departments as per the legal procedures in force in this regard.”

Name: – Yaqoub al-Kharousi (m), Habeeba al-Hina’i (f), Ismail al-Muqbali (m), Sa’eed al-Hashimi (m), Basma al-Kiyumi (f), Basimah al-Rajihi (f).

Gender m/f: See above

UA: 174/12 Index: MDE 20/001/2012 Issue Date: 19 June 2012

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