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Oman: Human rights defender Saeed Jadad banned from travel, “Azamn” newspaper closed, and trial of writer postponed

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) is very concerned about the ongoing targeting of prominent human rights defenders, journalists and writers in Oman.

Early in the morning of 08 January 2017, while prominent Omani human rights defender Saeed Jadad was on his way to get a flight to Doha, a security official at Salalah airport informed him that he is placed on a blacklist and not allowed to travel until 2099 which suggests that he is effectively banned for life.

On 26 August 2016, Jadad was released after serving a one-year prison sentence. On 25 November 2015, state security forces had raided Jadad’s home, detained and transferred him to Arzat prison in the city of Salalah. The arrest followed ratification by the Court of Appeal in Salalah on 18 November of the sentence issued by the Court of First Instance, of a one-year prison term and a fine of 1000 Omani Rials (US$2600). Jadad was convicted on charges of the "use of an information network (the Internet) in the dissemination of material that would prejudice public order," by the Court of First Instance on 07 April 2015. See: http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1266

Jadad is a long-standing, prominent human rights defender in Oman. He was instrumental in organising and leading pro-reform protests in Dhofar in 2011 and has spoken publicly to crowds of up to 20,000 people. He is an active blogger and has signed several petitions calling for reform in Oman. He has also been active in seeking information in relation to the death of his son who died 17 years ago in Sultan Qaboos Hospital in Salalah.

Also on 08 January 2017, in another case, the Minister for Information issued a directive that extends the closure of the newspaper “Azamn” for another three months – despite the fact that the Court of Appeal in its hearing on 26 December 2016 revoked the decision to shut down the newspaper. See: http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1454

In a separate case, during a hearing held on 04 January 2017, the Appeal Court in Muscat postponed the announcement of the verdict against writer and author Hammood Al-Shukaily to 18 January 2017.

On 18 October 2016, the Court of First Instance in Muscat sentenced Al-Shukaily to three years in prison in addition to a fine of 1000 OMR (US$2600) on charges of "incitement to protest." The court set bail at 5000 OMR (US$13,000) in order for Al-Shukaily to appeal the verdict.

On 14 August 2016, the Internal Security Service (ISS) arrested Al-Shukaily, reportedly in connection with his posts on Facebook about the arrests of the “Azamn” newspaper journalists and about corruption in Oman. He remains in detention. See: http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1405

Reports received by GCHR confirm that the trial is being held in accordance with Article 19 of the Information Technology Crimes Act. He is charged under this law in relation to a poem he posted on his Facebook page in which he says the following:

“Nothing in front of you other than getting out
Come out once
Try to get out for the second time
As the square under your feet
Stepping on silence
Stood proclaiming your homeland
Break the fear and cowardice
Bread will come to you by itself
Hot and flavorful
You will not lose”

Al-Shukaily, a member of the Omani Society for Writers and Authors, actively participated in peaceful protests in 2011. He published a novel, "One Cry is not Enough", in 2014 in addition to five short stories and a book of children’s literature. Al-Shukaily works as a teacher of Arabic language.

GCHR believes that the travel ban imposed on Saeed Jadad and the ongoing trial of Hammood Al-Shukaily are part of a systematic targeting of human rights activities and continuous attacks on freedom of expression in Oman.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights urges the authorities in Oman to:
1. Ensure that Saeed Jadad is free to travel to and from Oman without interference by the authorities;
2. Drop all the charges against Hammood Al-Shukaily;
3. Revoke the decision to extend the closure of “Azamn” newspaper and allow it to publish again, as ordered by the Court;
4. Immediately and unconditionally stop targeting Saeed Jadad and Hammood Al-Shukaily; and
5. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Oman are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

The GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognizes the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 5 (c): “For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels: (c) To communicate with non-governmental or intergovernmental organizations“ and to Article 6 (c): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters“.