Omani journalists’ trial postponed to September 26

Editor’s request to change judge rejected

Image Credit: Supplied
Al Zaman was closed for publishing two reports accusing top government officials of pressuring judiciary.
Gulf News

Muscat: The Muscat Primary Court has postponed issuing the verdict of a high-profile trial of two Omani journalists, Ebrahim Al Mamari and Zahir Al Abri, on Monday to September 29.

Three journalists of Al Zaman, Ebrahim Al Mamari, editor-in-chief, Yousuf Al Haj, editor, and Zahir Al Abri, reporter, are standing trial after the daily published reports in July that targeted the country’s judicial system.

The court also rejected the request of Yousuf Al Haj to change the judge assigned to his case, according to the defence lawyer, Yaqoob Al Harthi. The hearing session of Al Haj has been postponed to an unknown date.

Al Haj was involved in a heated verbal spat with the judge in the first hearing session last month, without giving further details.

Al Haj and Al Mamari are still under detention, while Al Abri was released on bail last month.

The case, which has polarised public opinion in the country, has garnered regional and international attention.

Last month, the Omani government ordered Al Zaman to close its offices after it published two reports accusing top officials in the government of pressuring the judiciary to change a ruling in an inheritance case.

The newspaper violated freedom of expression by running the report, the government said in a statement run by ONA, the state-run news agency.

The government promised legal action against the journalists but said freedom of expression “remains an authentic value that cannot be evaded and that freedom of expression should become a responsible action that is not motivated by any personal impulses”.

The daily published a story on July 27 titled “Supreme bodies tie the hands of justice”, accusing government officials of pressuring top judges in the Supreme Court to overturn a decision in an inheritance case.

Al Haj interviewed the vice-president of the Supreme Court who said that the judiciary is in a “pitiful state” and there are many violations.

Speaking to Al Hayat newspaper, a top Omani official said that newspapers were publishing such news after the government suspended financial support to local newspapers due to an economic crisis caused by the slump in oil price