[JURIST] An Omani blogger was sentenced to one year of imprisonment by a Muscat court on Sunday and must pay a fine of 1,000 Omani Rials (USD $2,600). The blogger, Mukhtar bin Mohammed bin Saif al-Hinai, was convicted on charges [ONA report] of slander and violating the country’s information technology laws. Al-Hinai is employed [Reuters report] by Al-Zaman newspaper, which has been under government scrutiny recently after publishing critical material. In the wake of the Arab Spring, authorities in Oman have been working to stifle dissent and criticism of the country’s leader Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al-Said [official website, in Arabic].
At the beginning of August Reporters Without Borders (RSF) [advocacy website] reported that 20 bloggers and Internet writers were fined and sentenced to imprisonment in Oman. The charges in those cases [RSF report] ranged from illegal assembly and disturbing public order to defaming the sultan and of cyber-crime. In July an Omani court sentenced six human rights activists [JURIST report] to between 12 and 18 months in prison for social media posts that were deemed to be slander against the country’s ruler. 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. In June the Gulf Center for Human Rights [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.