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Oman: Authorities prevent the family of blogger Mohamed Fazari from travelling; and Public Prosecutor appeals the verdict against “Azamn”

2017-01-31

Authorities in Oman continue to target human rights defenders as a result of the exercise of their right to freedom of expression and freedom of press. Reports received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) confirmed that the Omani authorities barred the family of human rights defender and blogger Mohammad Al-Fazari from traveling outside the country. Furthermore, the Public Prosecutor has submitted an appeal to the High Court against the decision to overturn the verdict against “Azamn” newspaper and two journalists, approved by the Appeal Court in Muscat.

On 30 January 2017, the Omani authorities stopped the family of Mohammad Al-Fazari including his wife, his three-year old daughter, and his one-year old son at the border between Oman and the UAE, where they were going to fly through Dubai Airport. After confiscating their passports they were informed that they were to appear before the Special Division of the Omani police in the capital Muscat. The Special Division is the executive arm of the Internal Security Service (ISS).

Mohammed Al-Fazari, arrived in the United Kingdom on 17 July 2015, despite the fact that the authorities imposed a travel ban on him and put him under house arrest and confiscated his personal documents (passport and personal card. On 22 July 2015, his brother, Mahmoud Al-Fazari, was summoned to appear for investigation before the Special Division in Muscat and only released on 06 August 2015.

In the on-going case of “Azamn” newspaper and its three journalists, on 23 January 2017, the Public Prosecutor submitted an appeal to the High Court against the verdict, which was issued on 26 December 2016, by the Court of Appeal in Muscat. The verdict acquitted Zaher Al-Abri while sentencing both Yousef Al-Haj to one year in prison and Ibrahim Al-Maamari to 6 months in prison. The Court of Appeal also revoked the decision to shut down “Azamn” newspaper which was issued by the Ministry of Information.

Reliable sources informed the GCHR that ISS continues to put pressure on the judicial authorities in order to tighten the verdict against the “Azamn” newspaper and its three journalists.

On 8 January 2017, the Minister for Information issued a directive that extends the closure of the newspaper “Azamn” by another three months – despite the fact that the Court of Appeal revoked the decision to shut down the newspaper as mentioned above.

The GCHR deplores in the strongest terms the prevention of the family of Mohammad Al-Fazari from travelling and their summoning to appear for interrogation by the ISS. It further condemns the ISS putting pressure on judicial authorities to tighten the judgment against the “Azamn” newspaper and the three journalists working for it.

The GCHR urges the authorities in Oman to: 

  1. Immediately and unconditionally allow the family of Mohammad Al-Fazari to travel and stop any harassment in any form against them;
  2. Revoke the latest sentences against the two “Azamn” journalists, Ibrahim Al-Maamari and Yousef Al-Haj;
  3. Provide a secure environment for “Azamn” newspaper to do its journalistic work;
  4. Protect freedom of the press in the country; and
  5. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders including journalists, writers and on-line activists 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.