The Omani authorities have recently released five peaceful protesters after detaining them for several weeks. All of them were charged with participating in a gathering of more than ten people without a permit, and violating the instructions of the higher committee in charge of examining the mechanism for dealing with developments in the spread of Covid-19 related to precautionary measures. A broadcaster who criticised the government’s handling of Covid-19 was also released after almost two weeks in detention.
A number of other separate charges were brought against each individual, including incitement to assembly, closure of the highway, assaulting policemen, and misuse of information technology, but these charges were quickly dropped, and the first two charges were kept.
The protesters are, Abdullah Salem Obaid Al-Badi, 23, who was arrested in late May 2021; Abdullah Salem Abdullah Al-Badi, 30, who was arrested on 28 May 2021; Mohammed Al-Qarini, 23, who was arrested on 30 May 2021; and Nahyan Al-Badi, a young man in the last year of his secondary studies, who was arrested on 30 May 2021. They are all from the province of Saham. The fifth protester is Ali Al-Saadi, 28 years old, from the province of Shinas, who was also arrested on 30 May 2021.
The five men all participated in the recent peaceful protests that started in Sohar on 23 May 2021, and moved from there to other provinces. They are job seekers who called for reform and the eradication of corruption.
They were held in Sohar Central Prison, which is supervised by the Royal Oman Police Command, and were permitted visits.
Abdullah Salem Obaid Al-Badi and Abdullah Salem Abdullah Al-Badi were released after more than two weeks of detention on bail. On 12 June 2021, Nahyan Al-Badi was released on bail, while Mohammed Al-Qarini and Ali Al-Saadi were released on bail on 05 July 2021.
In a separate case, on 03 July 2021, popular broadcaster Nasr Al-Bousaidi was released after being detained since 30 June 2021 for interrogation about tweets in which he criticised the procedures of the higher government committee in charge of examining the mechanism for dealing with developments in the spread of Covid-19. During his detention, the hashtag #Free_Nasr_Al_Bousaidi was trending on Twitter in Oman.
Al-Bousaidi is from the province of Nizwa and resides in the capital, Muscat. He is currently working as a talk show host on Al-Shabiba (Youth) Radio. He is also an Internet activist.
On 25 May 2021, in the midst of the popular protests that swept Oman and as part of his call for the government to implement the ideas of Omani youth, he tweeted on his Twitter account, “In many crises, do not plan who to arrest. Rather, make all your focus towards the solution. Whatever you think, only the solution will end everything.” Al-Bousaidi uses Twitter to follow up on issues of public interest, as well as to defend the rights of the Palestinian people.
While the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Omani Association for Human Rights (OAHR) welcome the release of the five peaceful protesters, in addition to broadcaster Nasr Al-Bousaidi, they call on the Omani government to immediately end the policy of silencing and repressing public freedoms, including freedom of peaceful demonstration and freedom of the press. The authorities in Oman must respect public freedoms, including freedom of expression and opinion, both online and offline. The security forces must carry out their duties to protect citizens, not oppress them, as they peacefully demand their civil and human rights.