[JURIST] An Omani court on Monday sentenced six human rights activists to between 12 and 18 months in prison for social media posts that were deemed to be slander against the country’s ruler, a defense lawyer said on Tuesday. Badr al-Bahri announced that he will appeal the verdict [Reuters report] against his clients who have paid 1,000 Omani rials (USD $2,597) each to cover fines and bail. The appeal hearing is set to start September 10. With the sentence against the dissidents, the country’s official news agency released photographs and the full names of the individuals in an attempt to suppress further protests. Last week, four other pro-reform activists were sentencedto between six months and a year in prison for defaming the country’s Sultan Qaboos. They were released on bail, and an appeal is pending.
The Omani government has been cracking down on pro-reform and human rights activists as well as political opponents. In June, an Omani court began a hearing [JURIST report] against protesters who have been accused of defamation and illegal assembly by opening with hearing the case against 15 protesters, four of whom have been charged with defamation and incitement to further protests and strikes in an oil factory and the remainder of whom have been charged with illegal assembly. The Omani authorities have detained more than 30 individuals who have been protesting against the government demanding political reform, promoting human rights and calling for the release of human rights defenders whom Omani authorities have detained. During the same month, the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) [advocacy website] urged [JURIST report] the government of Oman to release all human rights defenders who have been detained solely because of their legitimate human rights work, drop all charges against them, ensure security of the protesters in detention and take measures to protect human rights defenders when pursuing legitimate human rights activities from any harassment. Last year Oman’s Misdemeanour Court of First Instance in Muscat sentenced [JURIST report] 13 protesters with to five years in prison for shutting down a government organization, blocking roads and assaulting government employees.