According to reliable local reports received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Omani Association for Human Rights (OAHR), on 24 February 2021, the security authorities brought environmental activist Dr. Ahmed Issa Qatan to appear before the Public Prosecution, where he was investigated and charged with using social media in a way that would prejudice public order. The Public Prosecutor rejected bail, and ordered his detention until the first hearing of his trial, which has been set for 08 March 2021.
He is being held by the police in the Detention Prison in Salalah, which is controlled by the Directorate of Criminal Inquiries and Investigation of the Dhofar Governorate Police Command.
Reports confirmed that Dr. Qatan rejected the charge, which violates his right to freedom of expression, and denounced being interrogated without having access to a lawyer.
The Internal Security Service (ISS) arrested Dr. Qatan on 23 February 2021, after he was summoned to appear before the Special Division of the Salalah Police Command, where he was arrested upon presenting himself. The Special Division represents the executive arm of the ISS, and carries out arrest and detention orders for activists on its behalf.
Dr. Qatan, a resident of Dhofar Governorate and a specialist in desalination of sea water, opposes a decision issued by the Minister of State and Governor of Dhofar to prevent camels from grazing in parts of the Dhofar Plain, as part of his efforts to preserve traditional life and not prejudice its current formation or change the lifestyle that has existed for hundreds of years. Thus, he rejects plans to transfer authority over the Dhofar Plain to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning, which will allow the construction of housing complexes in these green spaces.
Once again, GCHR and OAHR condemn the arrest of Dr. Ahmed Issa Qatan, and protest against the two-week extension of his detention before his trial, which the two NGOs consider to be a violation of his basic rights to freely express his views and defend the environment in his governorate. The ISS should end the policy of silencing voices and opinions, and targeting human rights defenders, including Internet activists, which it has systematically followed in recent years.
The authorities in Oman must respect public freedoms, including freedom of expression and opinion, on and off the Internet.