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Oman activists end hunger strike

Inmates at Central Prison convinced Supreme Court will take up their cases

Gulf News

Muscat: The 23 inmates at the high-security Central Prison in Sumayil ended their two-week hunger strike on Sunday after one of their lawyers convinced them that the Supreme Court had agreed to take up their cases on March 4.

On February 9, 18 activists, writers and bloggers went on hunger strike demanding speedy trial of their cases in the Appeals Court and the Supreme Court, respectively.

During the strike writer and human rights activist Saeed Al Hashmi, who was put in a solitary confinement, had to be moved to Muscat to be admitted to Khoula Hospital and later to the Royal Hospital.

Esmail Al Muqabali, Mohammad Al Habsi, Mukhtar Al Hinai, Ali Al Muqabali, Ahmad Al Kharusi and Bassam Abu Qasida were also taken to the Sumayil Hospital after their sugar levels dropped during the strike.

Last week some 50 family members, including women and children, met the Shura Council chairman Shaikh Al Maawali and two deputy chairmen — Salim Bin Ali Bin Salim Al Kaabi and Abdullah Khalifa Bin Khamis Al Majali — and four other elected Shura members.

“We were assured by the Shura chairman about the Supreme Court taking up the cases on March 4 but the activists at the Sumayil Prison wanted ‘proof’ of that assurance to end the strike,” Khawla Bint Salem Al Hashmi, wife of writer-activist Al Hashmi, told Gulf News on Sunday.

However, she added that the Supreme Court had no policy of giving any ‘proof’ about its assurance. “Lawyer Yaqoub Al Harthi informed the activists in the prison that the Supreme Court would take up the case of wrongful gathering from March 4,” she said, adding that the inmates decided to end their strike after Al Harthi’s assurances.

“I was informed by Nasser Al Ghilani from the prison that they have ended [their] fast for now but if the cases are not taken up on March 4, they will resume their hunger strike,” Al Hashmi said.

She also said that another demand of the activists would also be studied by the judicial authorities from Monday. The fasting activists were also demanding that the Appeals Court immediately take up their cases of insulting Sultan Qaboos and violating the country’s cyber laws.

“If the cases are decided fast they can spend time simultaneously for two cases, otherwise they will have to be in prison for longer period,” an activist, who is out on bail, told Gulf News.

Al Harthi was not available for comment.