Muscat: The Muscat Appeal Court has reversed a decision to close down Oman’s Al Zaman newspaper, in what has become one of the highest-profile legal cases in the country.
The court also sentenced two Omani journalists to prison sentences.
Ebrahim Al Mamari, editor-in-chief of Al Zaman newspaper, was handed a six-month sentence while Yousuf Al Haj, an editor at Al Zaman, was handed a one-year sentence.
Zaher Al Abri, a reporter at the same paper, was aqcuitted.
In August, 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 government argued, in a statement run by the state-run news agency ONA, that the newspaper violated freedom of expression by running the reports.
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”.
On July 27, Al Zaman ran a story entitled ‘Supreme bodies tie the hands of justice’, accusing government officials of pressuring top Supreme Court judges to overturn a decision in the 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 newspapers were publishing such news after the government suspended financial support to local publications due to an economic crisis caused by the slump in oil prices.
Al Mamari, Al Haj and Al Abri, were held in detention for more than a month before the trial after the daily published reports in July that alleged corruption in the country’s judicial system.
They were later released on bail in October.
Based on the charges read at court, the three were convicted of disturbing public order, undermining the prestige of the state, and misusing the internet.
The case, which has polarised public opinion in Oman, has garnered regional and international attention.