Dr Talib Al Maa’mari Image Credit: Sunil K. Vaidya/Gulf News

Muscat: A Shura Council member and an elected Municipal Council member were among people detained in Batinah region, two days after protests were held against pollution caused by petrochemical industries near Liwa, about 270 kilometres north of Muscat.

Dr Talib Al Maa’mari, Shura member elected from Liwa, and Saqr Al Balushi from the same area were among an unspecified number of people detained by the security agencies in a pre-dawn swoop.

“My brother was picked up at 3am on Saturday by security forces that surrounded my house,” Captain Murad Al Maa’mari told Gulf News, adding that his brother did not put up any resistance. He said it was still not clear if it was a formal arrest, detention or his brother had been taken for talks.

Being an elected member of Oman’s advisory council, Dr Al Maa’mari enjoys immunity. Last year, the Public Prosecution wanted to try him for a post on his Facebook account against a Housing Ministry employee. The Shura members had rejected the request.

However, his detention this time has come when the house is not in session. “According to the law, when the Shura is not in session, a member can be arrested with the permission of the Council chairman,” Amor Al Rashdi, a senior lawyer at the Khalifa Al Hinai Advocates and Legal Consultancy, told Gulf News. He said that Dr Al Maa’mari’s arrest could be legal under the provisions of law.

Captain Murad said that his brother’s detention came close on the heels of meetings with authorities at the Northern Batinah police headquarters. “He had gone there to talk about the whole issue and clear misunderstandings and then came to my house.”

Mediator at protest

He said his brother had informed other Shura members from Batinah region that he had gone to the Liwa protests as a mediator, not a leader. “He was not present to lead the demonstrations as reported,” the former naval officer clarified.

Captain Murad said that three days before last Thursday’s protests, local villagers, mostly women, had gathered outside the port gate to remind authorities about pollution caused by industries in Sohar. “When they [local villagers] went again on Thursday, someone called my brother and informed him about the presence of a strong force at the protest venue,” he said, adding that his brother rushed to the spot to be a mediatory between the forces and demonstrators.

“My brother wanted to avoid any confrontation between people and forces,” he added. “What happened on Thursday was unprovoked action against peaceful people and unreasonable,” he claimed, alleging that the security forces used hot water cannons, fired tear gas and threw stones at people.

“People had gone there only to voice their anger against inaction by authorities to curb pollution and not indulge in any violence,” Captain Murad said.

According to him, people of the area have submitted medical reports on the adverse health effects of petrochemical industries but authorities failed to take any action. “Pollution from smoke has increased, so has sickness among people.”

Need for dialogue

He said there was need for dialogue to resolve the problem.

Hassan Al Balushi, brother of Municipal Councillor Saqr Al Balushi, told Gulf News that his brother was also picked up at around 3am from his house in Liwa. “We have no information about him and no reason was given,” he said, adding that other people were also picked up. “Upto 18 have been detained,” he added.

Meanwhile, Ebrahim Bin Ahmad Ajmi, Director General of Environment, on Friday announced that the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs has appointed a consultant from outside Oman to study the environmental impact of industries on Sohar.