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Oman: Online activist Hassan Al-Basham sentenced to three years in prison

2016-02-16

On 08 February 2016, the Court of First Instance Court in Sohar sentenced online activist Hassan Al-Basham to three years in prison. He was convicted of charges including allegedly "insulting the Sultan" and "the use of the Internet in what might be prejudicial to religious values."

According to reports received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), in the same hearing, the court issued several prison sentences against Al-Basham that are required by the Omani Penal Code to be merged. The longest sentence, which is three years in prison, will be implemented. He will be released on bail of 50 Omani Rials (approximately US$130) if he appeals the verdict.

On 17 September 2015, Al-Basham was first arrested by the Internal Security Service (ISS) and appeared before the Special Division of the Omani Police in Sohar. He was released on 23 September 2015, and then arrested again two days later, on 25 September 2015, and subjected to a prolonged interrogation at the Special Division in Sohar.

On 18 October 2015, Al-Basham was reportedly transferred to the Public Prosecution’s Office in Sohar, whic directed several charges against him. The first hearing in the trial was held on 30 October 2015.

Al-Basham is an online activist who with his numerous writings has defended prisoners of conscience. He also carries out other activities on social and humanitarian levels. He participated in the 2011 protests during the Arab Spring, which in Oman focused on improving social conditions such as more jobs, as well as combatting corruption.

For more information about recent human rights violations committed by the ISS in Oman, see the following link: http://www.gc4hr.org/news/index/country/6

GCHR expresses serious concern at the three-year sentence issued against Hassan Al-Basham and fears for his physical and psychological integrity. GCHR believes that he is being targeted as part of an ongoing trend of targeting human rights defenders and online activists in Oman by the ISS which endangers freedom of expression in the country.

GCHR urges the authorities in Oman to: 

  1. Revoke the three-year prison sentence against online activist Hassan Al-Basham and ensure his immediate and unconditional release;
  2. Grant Hassan Al-Basham immediate and unfettered access to his family and lawyer;
  3. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Hassan Al-Basham; and
  4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Oman are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment. 

The GCHR respectfully reminds the Omani authorities that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognizes the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (c): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters;” and to Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.