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Omani blogger sentenced to a year in prison

(ANHRI/IFEX) - ANHRI condemns the 16 September 2012 ruling issued by the Muscat Preliminary Court sentencing blogger Mokhtar bin Mohamed El-Hana'y to a year in prison and a 1000 Rial (approx. US$2600) fine. The blogger, who is also a journalist for the Al-Zaman newspaper, was accused of insulting the Sultan and violating the information technology law. In addition, the court adjourned the trial of five other activists, Khalfan E-Bedaway, Khaled El-Nofely, Sultan El-Saidy, Haythm Malkey and Mohamed El-Fazary, to 14 October.

The court also deferred the review of an appeal of the sentences issued against activists Hamoud Al-Rashidi, Mahmoud Rawahi, Mohammed Al-Habsi, Ali Almkabbala, Mona Hardan, Taleb Al-Abri and Bassam Abu-qaseda to 24 October. In July the court issued sentences ranging from a year to a year and a half in prison against the activists. They were released on bond pending the outcome of the appeal.

ANHRI characterises the sentences issued against the activists as politicised in nature and believes the government is attempting to silence opposition voices that have called for reform. The sentences form part of a series of similar actions against activists and bloggers who participated in demonstrations that took place in the country in May, after the earlier arrest of activists who were covering a workers' strike at the Fohoud oil field.

ANHRI calls on the Omani authorities to immediately release the activists and drop the charges against them since they did not commit a crime, but rather peacefully expressed their opinions. ANHRI also calls for guarantees for their safety.

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