Muscat: Oman’s Supreme Court has overruled an Appeals Court verdict against activists in the case of wrongful gathering and ordered a retrial.
“We are excited and very enthusiastic about the Supreme Court ruling that has given reprieve to eight of the 11 sentenced earlier by the Appeals Court,” Khalifa Al Hinai, advocate for five of the 11 activists and former judge, told Gulf News on Monday.
The Appeals Court in December last year had upheld the Primary Court verdict of a one year prison term and 200 Omani riyals fine 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 hunger strike for almost two weeks at the high-security Central Prison in Sumayil, asking 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 Hashmi along with Mukhtar Al Hinai, Nasser Al Ghilani, Badar Al Jabri, Mohammed Al Jamoudi and Abdulla Al Ghilani.
Lawyer and human rights activist Basma Al Kiyumi and media person Baasma Rajhi had initially decided against challenging the Appeal court judgment in the case of wrongful gathering but later filed the appeal and were among the eight who got the reprieve.
The Supreme Court rejected the appeal by Mohammed Al Sazari, Mahmoud Al Rawahi and Khalid Al Nofali against the Appeal Court verdict, which experts believe could be due to technical errors in appeal.
“I presume that there must be some technical error in their Power of Attorney thus the three didn’t get a favourable decision,” lawyer Al Hinai said, adding that the real reason would be known only later.
“It is possible,” he said when asked if the three could ask Supreme Court for another review after correcting technical errors in their original appeal.
When asked what the next step would be, Al Hinai said that the Supreme Court decision means that the trial court has to reopen the case. “In due course the Appeals Court, which is the trial court in this case, will give us fresh dates for the review petition,” he pointed out.
Khawla Al Hashmi, wife of Saeed Al Hashmi, told Gulf News that she was very happy that the Supreme Court had asked for a retrial. “It would take a couple of days for all of them to get out on bail,” she informed Gulf News.
All those convicted for wrongful gathering as well as insulting the Sultan and violating the country’s cyber laws are lodged at the high-security Central prison in Sumayil.
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 striking workers from contracting companies, working for two oil companies in the country.