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Eight Omani activists get bail in retrial

Supreme Court had ordered retrial in wrongful gathering case

Gulf News

Muscat: The Appeal Court on Sunday granted bail to eight activists, who had won a challenge in the Supreme Court against the earlier sentence of a year in prison and a fine of 200 Omani riyals (Dh1,903).

On March 4, the Supreme Court had ordered a retrial for eight in the case in which 11 activists were found guilty of wrongful gathering at a public place. During the second hearing of the retrial on Sunday, the court granted bail to eight while the cases for three are still pending in the Supreme Court.

“The remaining three are also facing other charges thus their cases are not taken up now,” Yaqoub Al Harthi, a lawyer for activists told Gulf News. “We are relieved for the time-being,” Tarek Al Sabahi, husband of lawyer activist Basma Al Kiyumi, told Gulf News from Cairo, where he is attending training in human rights along with the other Omani human rights activists.

However, he was a bit wary that the eight could get fresh sentence after the retrial in Appeal Court. “They have spent enough time and hope they are not sentenced to another year after retrial,” he fears.

“They are all released on personal bond and it may take a day or two for them to come out of the high-security Central Prison in Sumayil,” Khawla Al Hashemi, wife of imprisoned writer and human rights activist Saeed Al Hashemi, told Gulf News.

The Appeal Court in December last year upheld the Primary Court verdict of a one year prison term and a fine of 200 Omani riyals for the 11 activists, who had appealed to the Supreme Court to review the Appeal Court sentence.

The 11, along with 12 other inmates, had gone on a hunger strike for almost two weeks at the Central Prison in Sumayil, asking the Supreme Court to take up their cases quickly so they do not have to spend time in prison for long.

The Supreme Court ruled in favour of writer and human rights activists Saeed Al Hashemi along with Basma Al Kiyumi, media person Baasma Rajhi, Mukhtar Al Hinai, Nasser Al Ghilani, Badar Al Jabri, Mohammad Al Jamoudi and Abdullah Al Ghilani.

The Supreme Court had rejected the appeal by Mohammed Al Sazari, Mahmoud Al Rawahi and Khalid Al Nofali, who all are facing another set of charges, including insulting Sultan Qaboos Bin Saeed as well as violating the country’s cyber laws.

The 11 were among a group that had protested in Muscat against the arrest of Esmail Al Muqabali, Habiba Al Hinai and Yaqoub Al Kharussi. The three were arrested when they went to Fahud oil fields last May to show solidarity with the striking workers from contracting companies, working for two oil companies in the country.

Meanwhile, Khalfan Al Badwawi and Hathim Al Malki, who were out on bail and awaiting trial in the primary court for insulting the Sultan and violating Oman’s cyber laws, have been detained again.

According to an independent Monitor of Human Rights in Oman group, which is active on social media, before being detained, Al Badwawi was warned on phone not to interfere or give his opinions about involving arrests of citizens.

According to the Group’s posting on social media website Facebook, Al Badwawi has already spent 97 days in prison, including 56 in solitary confinement.