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Oman: Blogger Mohammed Al-Fazari arrested

2014-12-23

On 22 December 2014 at 11:30am, human rights defender Mohammed Al-Fazari was stopped at Muscat International airport by security authorities who informed him that a travel ban had been issued against him. He was told that he must appear immediately before the Special Division of the Omani Police in the capital Muscat for an investigation, and when he complied, he was arrested.

It is worth mentioning that the travel ban was ordered without any warning, as well as the arrest, which took place without a reason being given or any specific charges laid against him. He was on his way to the United Kingdom when authorities informed him about the travel ban.

Recent reports received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) confirm that he was later released at 9pm on the evening of the same day, after being held incommunicado with no access to his family or lawyer.

Al-Fazari, a well-known human rights defender and blogger in Oman, is the founder and editor of the e-magazine “Citizen” which has published a number of articles on corruption in government departments, including the Public Prosecution Office. It is believed that these articles may have been the motivation for his arrest. The following is an Arabic link to “Citizen”: http://www.mowatinoman.net/

On 30 August 2014, Al-Fazari was summoned by the General Directorate of Inquiries and criminal investigations of the Oman Police in Muscat.  He was detained incommunicado at the Special Division of the Oman Police in Muscat, located in the same office, until 4 September 2014, when he was released without any charges.

He was also arrested previously on 11 June 2012 and sentenced by the Court of First Instance in Muscat on 8 August 2012, together with 10 other human rights defenders, to one year in prison and a fine of 200 Rials (US$520) on charges including illegal assembly, disturbing public order and violating the cyber-crime law. On 17 March 2013, the Court of Appeal in Muscat ordered his release.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) expresses serious concern at the continued targeting of human rights defenders in Oman by the authorities. The GCHR believes that the travel ban imposed on Mohammed Al-Fazari and his arrest are part of a systematic policy approved by the Omani government to stifle the human rights movement in Oman.

The GCHR urges the authorities in Oman to: 

  1. Ensure the travel ban of human rights defender Mohammed Al-Fazari be lifted immediately and unconditionally;
  2. Stop arbitrarily arresting Mohammed Al-Fazari and holding him incommunicado;
  3. 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 you 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.