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Oman: Coalition calls for release of writer Abdullah Habib

The Omani Coalition for Human Rights, established in March 2018, consisting of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, the Omani Association for Human Rights, the Omani Center for Human Rights and Muwatin Center for Press Freedom, calls for the release of the writer, film critic and Internet activist Abdullah Habib. On 02 April 2018, the Muscat appeals court upheld a three-year sentence against him, with only six months to be served in prison.
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. He has been 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.
Habib was transferred immediately after the appeal ruling on 02 April 2018 to the accommodation center at Samail Central Prison, and his family has been allowed to visit him once since. Due to Habib’s health conditions, the Coalition is concerned about his condition in the shelter where the prisoner is not allowed to keep his medications. Therefore, the prison administration must transfer him to the prison’s health center to get his medication, which takes a long time and may further aggravate his health. The Coalition also points out that the shelter is a prison for undocumented migrants to the country as well as drug detainees and prisoners facing other charges that are not commensurate with those of a writer and critic such as Habib, who was imprisoned on charges related to his freedom of expression.
Born in Saham (northern Oman) in 1964, Habib studied cinema in the United States of America and received a Master’s degree in cultural and film studies. He also prepared a thesis for his Phd degree that he was unable to present because of his health conditions. He is a writer and film critic with a wide range of publications ranging from prose, text and film that has exceeded 12 books, as well as five black and white films. He has also participated in many international events and festivals. Habib was one of the intellectuals who participated in and supported the February 2011 protests in Oman.
The Omani Coalition for Human Rights calls on the authorities in Oman to release Abdullah Habib and to drop all charges against him immediately and without any conditions.