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Oman court upholds jail terms for bloggers

Will spend time in prison for insulting country’s ruler

Gulf News

Muscat: The Appeal Court upheld Muscat Primary Court’s sentences against seven bloggers for insulting the country’s ruler Sultan Qaboos Bin Saeed but reduced the terms for two at the sixth hearing on Wednesday.

Ishaq Al Aghbari was set free as he had already spent time in detention. “He had spent over three months in prison and his sentence was reduced to three months by the Appeal Court so he was set free,” an activist, who was present in court, told Gulf News.

Ali Al Haji, whose sentence was reduced to six months from one year, was not in court but he is expected to report to the Sumayil Central Prison at a later date.

“The primary court sentence of 18 months in prison and a fine of 1,000 Omani riyals [Dh9,539] against Esmail Al Muqabali was upheld,” his lawyer Sami Al Sa’adi told Gulf News. Also sent to prison for 18 months and fined 1,000 riyals was Hassan Al Ruqaishi.

The three-judge Appeal Court bench also upheld the sentence of one-year prison terms and 1,000 riyals fine against Osama Al Thuwaiya, Ahmad Al Maamari, Awad Al Sawafi, Mukhtar Al Hinai and Mahmoud Al Jamoudi Al Muqbali, a leading Sohar-based activist and Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) employee, and Osama Al Thuwaiya were present at the court hearing and surrendered to serve the sentences right away.

Al Hinai and Al Jamoudi are already serving prison terms after the Appeal Court earlier upheld a sentence against the two in the case for wrongful gathering.

Meanwhile, the Primary Court adjourned the case for insulting the ruler against Sultan Al Sa’adi, Hatem Al Maliki, Khalid Al Nofli, Khalfan Al Badawi and Mohammad Fazari to February 27.

In the past two weeks the Appeal Court has upheld verdicts in 29 cases, sending 28 people to prison for a jail term from six months to one year. Medical student Abdullah Al Abdali’s sentence was suspended until the end of his semester.

The appellants were among 42 activists and bloggers on trial. Some of the activists are facing two different cases simultaneously, one for wrongful gathering and the other for insulting the country’s ruler, as well as violating the country’s cyber laws.

The crackdown against the activists started at the end of May when former volleyball player Habiba Al Hinai, Sohar-based activist Esmail Al Muqbali and Yaqoub Al Kharusi were detained in Fahoud when they went to express solidarity with the striking oil field workers on May 31 this year. Subsequently, the authorities arrested bloggers and activists who had gathered to show support against the trio’s arrest.