Writer and activist awaits trial over rights-related social media posts


As reported by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), on 13th March 2017 the Appeal Court postponed a hearing on the case of writer, cinema critic and online activist, Abdullah Habib, presumably in order for the Court to gather additional documentation on his case. On 8th November 2016, a Court of First Instance in Muscat had sentenced Habib to three years in prison and a fine of 2,000 Omani Rials (5,200USD). Bail was set at 1,000 Omani Rials (US$2600), so he could remain free while appealing the verdict.

Abdullah Habib was charged with violating Article 19 of the Information Technology Crimes Act, in particular with “using the Internet in what would prejudice the state public order”. He was arrested by the Special Division of the Omani Police General Command in Muscat on 15th April 2015. He was then denied access to his family and a lawyer and finally released on 4th May 2016. His arrest and trial are connected to his writing on social media, such as Facebook, where he wrote specifically advocating for fellow Omanis' rights.

According to GCHR's 2016 Annual Report released on 14th March 2017, freedom of expression was severely curtailed in Oman throughout 2016. The Internal Security Service (ISS) systematically targeted media outlets, journalists and online activists. Media outlets were shut down, journalists subjected to judicial harassment, detention and on-going threats and online activists targeted for their writing on social media. Detained journalists and human rights defenders faced torture and ill-treatment at the hands of the Special Division of the Omani Police, which functions as the executive arm of ISS. A number of human rights defenders, activists and bloggers have left the country to avoid facing similar repressions and repercussions. Amnesty International's 2016/2017 Annual Report also documented cases wherein the the state violated citizens' right to freedom of expression. 

Tags: harassment