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Oman: Abdullah Habib imprisoned after Appeal Court upholds his sentence

2018-04-07

According to reports received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), writer, cinema critic and online activist Abdullah Habib has been imprisoned for six months after the Appeal Court in Muscat, Oman upheld his sentence.

On 02 April 2018, the Appeal Court held a hearing in which it upheld the primary sentence of three years in prison against Habib. However, it suspended two and a half years of the sentence. He has been transferred accordingly to Samail Central Prison to serve the remaining six months of his sentence.

Habib was charged with violating article 19 of the Information Technology Crimes Act for “using the Internet in what would prejudice the state public order” in addition to “contempt of religions.” They are charges that are often imposed on human rights defenders including Internet activists.

On 08 November 2016, the Court of First Instance in Muscat sentenced Habib to three years in prison and a fine of 2000 Omani Rials (US$5200). Bail was set at 1000 Oman Rials (US$2600) in order for him to appeal the verdict.

Habib was arrested on 15 April 2015 by the Special Division of the Omani Police General Command in the capital Muscat, which is the executive arm of the Omani Internal Security Service (ISS). He was not allowed access to his family or lawyer and was only released on 04 May 2016.

His arrest and the trial are related to his writings on Facebook in which he expressed his views, in addition to defending the people’s rights in Oman.

Habib is a well-known writer and cinema critic who is 53 years old. He has produced many short films and published a few books in addition to many articles in the national newspapers. He has received many awards for his work.

Again, GCHR expresses serious concern at the ongoing targeting of leading Omani writer, cinema critic and online activist Abdullah Habib. GCHR condemns the arrest, incommunicado detention, and trial of Habib, and calls for his achievements to be celebrated instead of leading to persecution and a trial.

GCHR urges the authorities in Oman to: 

  1. Release Abdullah Habib and Drop all the charges against him immediately without any conditions;
  2. Stop targeting Abdullah Habib, as he has been charged in violation of his right to free expression;
  3. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Abdullah Habib; and
  4. 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.