Oman: Oman: Internal Security Service continues to target freedom of expression online; Saed Jadad released
Update: Mohammad Al-Fazari has arrived to UK based on information from his facebook page.
Omani authorities continue to persecute those who speak out critically online, says the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), which reports that four Internet activists have been arrested in Liwa over the past few days. As well, for more than a hundred days, human rights defender and blogger Mohammad Al-Fazari has been banned from travel without any justification. However, the GCHR welcomes the news that prominent human rights defender Saed Jadad has been freed on bail.
In the past week, the Internal Security Service has arrested four Internet activists in Liwa province in the north of the country, after they were summoned by telephone. Information received by the GCHR suggested that their arrest is related to their demand on social media networks for the release of Dr. Taleb Al-Maamari, a member of the Shura Council for Liwa Province, who is still languishing in prison since 24 August 2013. Al-Maamari was arrested after his participation in a peaceful demonstration on 22 August with the local citizens against the environmental pollution caused by petrochemical installations at the Sohar Refinery.
First on 5 April, Majid Al-Bloushi, 24 years, Abdullah Al-Kundi, 34 years old, and Saed Al-Khourosi, 41 years, were arrested. Al Bloushi and Al-Kundi are reportedly being held at the Special Division of the General Command of the Omani Police in Muscat (which is the executive arm of the Internal Security Service), while the location of Al-Khourosi is still unknown. He refused to surrender until a judiciary warrant was issued and was effectively kidnapped by the security forces. A fourth man, Mohammed Al-Manaee, in his twenties, was arrested in the same case on 6 April and is being kept at the Special Division in Muscat. The online activists are being held incommunicado and have no access to their lawyers.
In other news, Mohammad Al-Fazari, a well-known Omani human rights defender and blogger, has not been able to travel since December. He is the founder and editor of the e-magazine “Citizen” (http://www.mowatinoman.net/) 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 last year.
On 22 December 2014, as Al-Fazari was about to travel from Muscat International Airport, security forces stopped him and also confiscated his passport in addition to his personal identification card without any explanation. In spite of his repeated queries to the Special Division of the Omani Police in Muscat, the Public Prosecutor and to the National Commission for Human Rights, all three failed to clarify the reasons for the travel ban. Furthermore, the Public Prosecutor refused to register his complaint against the authorities for imposing the travel ban and prevented him from exercising his right to travel outside the country. Reports indicate that the Internal Security Service is behind the travel ban, which is believed to be due to his peaceful activities in the field of human rights. See: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/856
Meanwhile, on 7 April 2015, Omani human rights defender Saed Jadad was released from prison in Muscat after paying bail of 500 OMR (approx. USD$1300). He had been jailed since 21 January 2015 and received four different sentences during trials in Muscat and Salalah. On 31 March 2015, the Court of First Instance in Salalah had sentenced Jadad to one year in prison in addition to a fine of 2600 Omani Rials (USD$6755) for allegedly violating the Cyber Crime Law. The bail request submitted by his lawyer was rejected and the appeal hearing scheduled for 13 April. On 1 April, the Court of Appeals in Muscat began a review of a previous sentence issued against Jadad, and adjourned the hearing to 15 April. On 8 March 2015, the Court of First Instance in Muscat had handed down a three-year sentence and fines in three cases against Jadad for his human rights activities, including three years in prison. See https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/969
For more information about recent human rights violations committed by the Internal Security Service see the following link: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/index/country/6
GCHR condemns the serious and repeated violations carried out by the Internal Security Service, which directly threaten freedom of opinion and expression in the country and that are inconsistent with local and international laws.
The GCHR expresses serious concern at the targeting of Mohammad Al-Fazari and Saed Jadad for their human rights activities, in addition to the incommunicado detention of the four online activists, Majid Al-Bloushi, Abdullah Al-Kundi, Saed Al-Khourosi, and Mohammed Al-Manaee, and fears for their physical and psychological integrity. The GCHR believes that they have been targeted as part of an ongoing trend of persecuting human rights defenders and online activists in Oman and endangering freedom of expression in the country.
The GCHR urges the authorities in Oman to:
- Revoke the travel ban imposed on Mohammad Al-Fazari;
- Overturn the prison sentences and fines imposed on Saed Jadad, allowing him to remain free;
- Ensure the release of online activists Majid Al-Bloushi, Abdullah Al-Kundi, Saed Al-Khourosi, and Mohammed Al-Manaee immediately and unconditionally;
- Grant them immediate and unfettered access to their families and lawyer;
- Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of the four online activists;
- Release all prisoners of conscience in Oman; 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.
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.”