Oman: Oman: Court of Appeal again upholds the sentence against Internet activist Hassan Al-Basham
On 19 November 2017, the Court of Appeal in Muscat, Oman again upheld the initial verdict of three years in prison to which Internet activist Hassan Al-Basham was initially sentenced by the Court of First Instance in Muscat. The Court of Appeal reportedly did not allow the defense team to present its evidence and medical reports.
Al-Basham wrote on 25 November 2017 on his Facebook page: "Goodbye my friends and my loved ones ...." as he has been jailed the next day in Samail Central Prison in Muscat to serve the sentence. Reports confirmed that he will appeal the ruling again at the High Court.
It should be noted that, previously, on 17 January 2017, the High Court (the highest in the land) had revoked the three-year prison sentence against Al-Basham after its examination of his case, which is related to his human rights activities. The ruling was based on his deteriorating health and the case was referred back to the Court of Appeal. The High Court took into account the fact that the request by the defence team to carry out a medical examination of the defendant was ignored during the trial.
On 13 June 2016, the Court of Appeal in Sohar upheld the three-year prison sentence against Al-Basham. A fine related to the charge of "insulting the Sultan" was overturned. On 08 February 2016, the Court of First Instance in Sohar had sentenced Al-Basham to three years in prison on charges of "the use of the Internet in what might be prejudicial to religious values." He was also convicted of allegedly "insulting the Sultan" and fined 500 Omani Rials (US$1300) – a charge which was later dropped. See: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1182
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.
Al-Basham is an online activist who has defended prisoners of conscience with his numerous writings. 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.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) calls on the authorities in Oman to drop all the charges against Al-Basham immediately and unconditionally. GCHR believes he has been 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:
- Release online activist Hassan Al-Basham immediately and unconditionally as the sentence was already revoked by the High Court and there is no basis for him to stay in prison;
- Stop targeting Hassan Al-Basham immediately, as he has been charged in violation of his right to free expression;
- Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Hassan Al-Basham; and
- 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.
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.”