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Harsh sentences handed down to six activists in Oman

(ANHRI/IFEX) - 10 September 2012 - The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) condemns the sentences issued by the Muscat Preliminary Court against six activists in a 9 September 2012 hearing. The activists were accused of insulting the Sultan and undermining the position of the state, as well as having committed information technology crimes. The court sentenced them to up to a year and half in jail and a fine of 1000 Rials (approx. US$2600).

Although the prosecution pressed charges of "inciting people to assemble", the court convicted activist and member of the Omani team for human rights Ismail bin Ali bin Hamdan El-Meqbaly of insulting the Sultan, undermining the position of the state and committing information technology crimes for covering a workers' strike that took place in the city of Fehood in May.

The court also convicted activists Issac bin Sultan bin Yusuf El-Aghbari, Ali bin Mubarak bin Khamis El-Hagi, Mahmoud bin Mohamed bin Naser El-Jamodi, Hasan bin Khamis bin Mohamed El-Reqishi and Nabhan bin Salem bin Abdullah El-Hansi. They were accused of insulting the Sultan, violating the information technology law and undermining the position of the state owing to their participation in demonstrations that took place in June. The demonstrations called for the release of activists who had previously been arrested.

The court adjourned the trial of another six activists, scheduling the next hearing for 16 September.

ANHRI views the sentences against the activists as politicised, saying, "The government seeks to silence activists who call for reforms and other voices of dissent. The sentences constitute a punishment for the activists' human rights work and their demands for political and social reforms in the country, since all the activists who went to trial participated in the marches and demonstrations that took place in Oman in 2011. The security forces control the judiciary. This control is actually proven by the differences between the charges with which the prosecution referred Ismail El-Meqbaly to the court and the charges upon which the sentencing was based. Furthermore, the prosecution released other members of the team that participated with him in covering the strike."

ANHRI calls on the Omani authorities to immediately release all the activists and drop the charges against them. Moreover, ANHRI calls on the authorities to guarantee their safety and stop prosecuting them, particularly as they did not commit a crime by peacefully expressing their opinions.

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