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Oman: Two Internet activists sentenced to prison

The authorities in Oman continue to target the public liberties of citizens on an ongoing basis. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Omani Association for Human Rights (OAHR) denounce the authorities’ use of the judiciary to sentence Internet activists to prison in violation of their rights to freedom of expression online and offline.

On 07 June 2022, the Sohar Court of Appeal held a session during which it sentenced two Internet activists to prison for blasphemy, and referred two others to another court.

Internet activist Ali bin Marhoon Abdullah Al-Ghafri was sentenced to five years in prison after the court convicted him of “insulting and offending God.”

Internet activist Maryam Bint Youssef Bint Ali Al-Nuaimi was sentenced to three years in prison after being convicted of insulting religions.

It also decided to confiscate their phones, and to close their Twitter accounts.

Reliable local sources confirmed that the reason for the prison sentence against Maryam Al-Nuaimi was a sentence she wrote in a WhatsApp group several years ago. Her right to privacy was violated as she was forced to give access to exchanges between members of this group during her interrogation by security authorities. Al-Nuaimi was also previously arrested and held in solitary confinement, and although she was released on bail at the time, she suffered health and psychological damage, in addition to losses in her work.

As for Internet activist Ghaith Matar Hamad Al-Shibli, the court decided not to prosecute him for the charges he was accused of, due to the lack of criminal responsibility, according to the text of the verdict. He was charged with “insulting and offending the Divine Essence” and “using the Internet and information technology means to incite and tempt the commission of debauchery.”

The court, due to its lack of jurisdiction, also referred misdemeanor cases against Internet activists Ghaith Matar Hamad Al-Shibli and Abdullah Hassan Jaber Al-Muqbali, to the competent Misdemeanor Court.

Both GCHR and OAHR denounce this arbitrary trial, and call for their sentences to be overturned, as well as for an end to the prosecution of Internet activists, which violates their legitimate right to freedom of expression.
The Omani government should work to respect public freedoms, and in particular freedom of expression, both online and offline.