Civil society calls for an immediate investigation into activist's death in prison


Freedom of expression remains under threat in Oman and online activists and writers have been targeted in recent weeks. Most recently, human rights groups have called for an investigation into the death of detained online activist Hassan Al-Basham whose case was previously reported on the CIVICUS Monitor. Al-Basham died on 28th April 2018 while serving a three-year sentence in Samail Central Prison. Concerns have been raised by civil society that Al-Basham was denied access to vital medical treatment shortly before his death. 

Al-Basham was sentenced on 8th February 2016 to three years in prison on charges of using the internet in a way that "might be prejudicial to religious values" and "insulting the Sultan". Similarly, on 13th June 2016 the Court of Appeal in Sohar upheld his three-year prison sentence. Al-Basham was an online activist who defended prisoners of conscience. Before his death, civil society groups had drawn attention to this case and the Omani Human Rights Coalition had called for his release. Upon hearing of his passing, civil society groups, in particular the Omani Human Rights Coalition, called on the authorities to conduct an independent and impartial investigation into Al-Basham's treatment and circumstances around his death in detention. 

The Coalition, established in March 2018, consists of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)Omani Association for Human RightsOmani Center for Human Rights and Muwatin Center for Press Freedom.

On 2nd April 2018, the Muscat Appeals Court upheld a sentence of three years against writer, film critic and online activist Abdullah Habib, with six months of the sentence to be served in prison. On 8th November 2016, the Court of First Instance in Muscat sentenced Habib to three years in prison and a fine of 2,000 Omani Rials (5,200 USD). Bail was set at 1,000 Oman Rials (2,600 USD) in order for him to appeal the verdict. He was charged with violating Article 19 of the Information Technology Crimes Act. These charges are often used by Omani authorities to target human rights defenders and online activists. The Omani Coalition for Human Rights expressed concerns over the activist's health as he has been denied his medication.

On 8th April 2018, the Internal Security Service arrested Internet activist Yousif Sultan Al-Arimi for speaking out on social media. According to GCHR, Al-Arimi has been denied access to his family and his lawyer. It is believed his arrest is related to his outspokenness on the current state of affairs in the country. Al-Arimi was also involved in the 2011 nation-wide protests in Oman.