The Omani Coalition for Human Rights, established in March 2018, consisting of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, the Omani Association for Human Rights, the Omani Center for Human Rights and Muwatin Center for Press Freedom, calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Internet activist Hassan Al-Basham. His continued imprisonment violates his right to freedom of expression.
On 17 September 2015, Al-Basham was first arrested by the Internal Security Service (ISS) and appeared before the Special Division of the Omani Police in Sohar. He was released on 23 September 2015, and then arrested again two days later, on 25 September 2015, and subjected to a prolonged interrogation.
On 13 June 2016, the Court of Appeal in Sohar upheld the three-year prison sentence against Al-Basham. A fine related to the charge of “insulting the Sultan” was overturned. On 08 February 2016, the Court of First Instance in Sohar had sentenced Al-Basham to three years in prison on charges of “the use of the Internet in what might be prejudicial to religious values.” He was also convicted of allegedly “insulting the Sultan” and fined 500 Omani Rials (US$1300) – a charge which was dropped.
It should be noted that, previously, on 17 January 2017, the High Court (the highest in the land) had revoked the three-year prison sentence against Al-Basham after its examination of his case, which is related to his human rights activities. The ruling was based on his deteriorating health and the case was referred back to the Court of Appeal. The High Court took into account the fact that the request by the defense team to carry out a medical examination of the defendant was ignored during the trial.
However, on 19 November 2017, the Court of Appeal in Muscat again upheld the initial verdict of three years in prison to which he was initially sentenced by the Court of First Instance in Muscat. The Court of Appeal reportedly did not allow the defense team to present its evidence and medical reports.
Al-Basham wrote on 25 November 2017 on his Facebook page: “Goodbye my friends and my loved ones ….” before he was jailed the next day in Samail Central Prison to serve the sentence. Reports confirmed that he will appeal the ruling again at the High Court.
Al-Basham is an online activist who has defended prisoners of conscience with his numerous writings. He also carries out other activities on social and humanitarian levels. He participated in the 2011 protests during the Arab Spring, which in Oman focused on improving social conditions such as more jobs, as well as combatting corruption.
The Omani Coalition for Human Rights calls on the authorities in Oman to drop all the charges against Al-Basham immediately and unconditionally. The Coalition believes he has been targeted as part of an ongoing trend of targeting human rights defenders and online activists in Oman by the ISS which endangers freedom of expression in the country.
The Omani Coalition for Human Rights urges the authorities in Oman to:
- Release online activist Hassan Al-Basham immediately and unconditionally as the sentence was already revoked by the High Court and there is no basis for him to remain in prison;
- Stop targeting Hassan Al-Basham, as he has been charged in violation of his right to free expression;
- Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Hassan Al-Basham; and
- Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Oman are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.