Muscat: The Primary Court in Muscat has adjourned hearing in the case of Liwa protesters, including a Shura member and an elected Municipal councillor, to September 29. “The court has denied bail for all ten detainees until the next hearing on September 29,”
Salah al Beloushi, lawyer for the Liwa Shura member, Dr. Talib Al Maa’mari, is facing two charges of wrongful assembly at a public place and inciting the crowd. The presiding judge Yousuf Al Faleti had barred media coverage of the proceedings at the start of the hearing but later journalists presented a written request and he allowed publication of the details of the hearing on Thursday.
Dr. Maa’mari and a Liwa Municipal council member, Saqr Al Beloushi are under detention since August 24 after demonstrations outside the Sohar Industrial Port gate by Liwa residents, including a large number of women. The local residents were protesting against pollution caused by the petrochemical industries near Liwa, about 270km north of Muscat.
Another Municipal Council member Yaqoub Al Maa’mari was also held but was released later. Al Beloushi is facing charges of blocking traffic and wrongful gathering. At the hearing on Thursday, the Public Prosecution levelled charges against ten accused, including two who were not present in the court.
The Shura member denied all charges and told the judge that he had gone to the demonstration site to calm protesters and had not invited anyone to go for the demonstrations. Being an elected member of Oman’s advisory council, Dr. Al Maa’mari enjoys immunity. He can only be arrested after approval by a two-thirds majority vote in the 84-member house. In case the house is not in session, the Council Chairman has the authority to lift the immunity. The chairman, Shaikh Khalid Bin Hilal Bin Naseer Al Maa’wali, had denied lifting immunity on microblogging website Twitter. However, an elected member can be arrested for his/her presence “at the scene of crime”, a clause presumably used by the authorities.