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Oman – Update: Sentencing of human rights defenders Mr Hamoud Al-Rashidi and Mr Hamad Al-Kharousi
On 9 July 2012, the Criminal Court of First Instance in Muscat sentenced Mr Hamoud Al-Rashidi and Mr Hamad Al-Kharousi, respectively, to six months and one year in prison.
Mr Hamoud Al-Rahshidi, a writer, was convicted of insulting the character of the ruler of Oman, Sultan Qaboos, and sentenced to six months in prison with a fine of 200 Oman Riyals under the provisions of the Omani Criminal Code.
Mr Hamad Al-Kharousi, a poet, was also convicted of insulting the character of Sultan Qaboos, and of publishing insulting and defamatory material through a social media network. He was sentenced to one year in prison and a fine of 200 Omani Riyals under the provisions of the Omani Criminal Code and the Omani Information Technology Crimes Law. Both human rights defenders were released on a bail of 1000 Omani Riyals pending appeal.
Hamoud Al-Rashidi and Hamad Al-Kharousi were among several Omani human rights defenders arrested on 8 June 2012. It is believed that Hamoud Al-Rashidi was arrested for carrying a banner critical of the authorities, and Hamad Al-Kharousi was detained for writing a poem critical of Sultan Qaboos. They were then detained at the Special Branch of the Omani Police in Muscat before being released on bail.
Omani human rights defenders are currently facing an ongoing campaign of intimidation and harassment: judicial harassment, smear campaigns; hacking of personal computers, email and blog accounts, and social networking websites; accusations of crimes including "strife and disorder" and “attacking the sovereign symbol of the country”. The Omani public has reportedly been asked to inform the authorities on the activities of human rights groups, and to provide evidence for their prosecution.
Front Line Defenders condemns the sentencing of the two abovementioned human rights defenders and attacks by the authorities on the rights to freedom of expression and assembly. Front Line Defenders believes that the sentencing of the two human rights defenders is motivated by their peaceful and legitimate human rights work, in particular their call for the respect of the rights to freedom of expression and assembly in accordance with international standards by which Oman is bound. Front Line Defenders calls on the Omani authorities to immediately overturn the conviction of the above mentioned human rights defenders and guarantee that they are able to carry out their human rights work without harassment or fear of reprisals.
For more information on the case, please see the original urgent appeal dated 15 June 2012: http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/18650
You can find additional information on the situation for human rights Defenders in Oman. HERE