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Rights group tells inmates to end hunger strike

Omani activists are on hunger strike in prison to demand speedy trial

Gulf News

Muscat: A group comprising outgoing members of Oman’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) have visited the tight security Central Prison in Sumayil, to meet with the activist prisoners who are on hunger strike.

The 14-member NHRC team completed their three-year term on January 24 but the announcement, through a Royal Decree, for the formation of the new team has not been made. The team therefore cannot officially take up any causes or issue statements.

Gulf News has learnt from reliable sources that the group met with the prisoners, who are on hunger strike to press their demands for a quick hearing in their cases of alleged wrongful gatherings as well as insulting Sultan Qaboos and violating country’s cyber laws.

The group tried telling striking activists in Sumayil Prison that the country’s judiciary cannot be influenced to speed up the cases as it follows proper procedure. They also urged activists to end their hunger strike and keep faith in the country’s judiciary.

The group has also prepared a report on their visit, including the treatment of the prisoners by the prison staff as well as medical facilities made available to those on hunger strike.

About 18 activists began hunger strike ten days ago and others have joined them since then. Well known Omani writer and human rights activist, Saeed Al Hashmi, who was put in solitary confinement after he started the indefinite fast, had to be admitted to a hospital in Muscat while Esmail Al Muqabali, Mohammad Al Habsi, Mukhtar Al Hinai and Ali Al Muqabali were shifted to a hospital in Sumayil as they took ill during fast.

More than 40 activists and bloggers were put on trial with some facing double charges of wrongful gathering as well as insulting the country’s ruler, Sultan Qaboos Bin Saeed, and violating the country’s cyber laws.

The crackdown against the activists started at the end of May, 2012 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 their solidarity with the striking oil field workers on May 31.

Subsequently, the authorities arrested several bloggers and activists who had either written on social media websites or had gathered for a demonstration to show support against the arrest of the trio.