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Written by HRDs and Journalists
Joint Appeal By GCHR & CIHRS / Oman- Human rights defenders on trial for exercising their right to freedom of assembly and expression
On 25 June 2012, the first hearing of the trial of detained human rights defenders and activists including, Basma Al-Keumy, and Basma Al-Rajehy took place at the Court of First Instance in Muscat. A further hearing took place on 27 June 2012, where some human rights defenders were released on bail. Others however, remain in detention.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) issued an appeal dated 12 June 2012 (http://gc4hr.org/news/view/170) following the arrest of a group of human rights defenders at a peaceful protest in Muscat on 11 June 2012. A further appeal was issued on 15 June 2012 relating to the hunger strike of Basma Al-Keumy, and Basma Al-Rajehy (http://gc4hr.org/news/view/175).
Both women were charged with publicly gathering and blocking a road and Basma Al-Rajehy was accused of the additional charge of insulting a civil servant. Both human rights defenders have denied the charges against them.
Those charged with a public offence for allegedly blocking the road, while participating in the protest, include:
-Basma Al-Keumy. (Lawyer and activist)
-Basma Al-Rajehy (with the additional charge of insulting a public official, rejected by her)
-Bader Nasser Al-Jabry. (Blogger and activist)
-Khaled Saleh Al-Nawfaly. (Activist)
-Abdullah Mohammed Al-Ghilany. (Activist)
-Mohammad Khalifa Al-Fazary. (Blogger and activist)
-Mahmoud Hamad Al-Rawahy. (Poet)
-Mahmoud Mohamed Al-Jamody. (Activist)
-Mukhtar Mohamed Al-Hanaei. (Journalist, with the additional charge of violation of administrative regulations for working for the newspaper "Al-Zaman" without a license)
-Nasser Saleh Al-Ghilany. (Writer and critic)
-Saeed Sultan Al-Hashemy. (Author and activist)
On 25 June 2012, Saeed Sultan Al-Hashemy, Basma Al-Keumy and Basma Al-Rajehy told the court of the violations of legal and human rights to which they had been subjected since their arrest and detention, the status of the investigation and imprisonment and the lack of medical care in prison. Basma Al-Keumy reportedly did not receive the medical attention she required while suffering from episodes of acute respiratory distress.
Saeed Al-Hashemy, who has been on hunger strike since his arrest on 11 June 2012, told the court that the activists did not stop or block the road during the protest and that it was in fact the police who had set up the road block when they were arresting the peaceful protestors. He claimed that the police had called them animals when they were arresting them and that the prosecution’s lawyers had only visited him after eight days in detention.
In violation of due process, the human rights defenders were not permitted access to defence lawyers while they were in detention and they were not afforded the opportunity to analyse the evidence against them or to prepare a defence case. At the hearing, the defence lawyers were reportedly not allowed to talk to the judge who also refused to release the accused human rights defenders on bail. The hearing was attended by a large number of people, some of whom were forced to gather outside the court as it could not accommodate all those who had come to show their solidarity with the human rights activists.
The prosecution argued that the protestors were in breach of the law and should face punishment. The defence lawyer asked that the human rights defenders be released on bail. The judge released, Basma Al-Keumy , Basma Al-Rajehy, Bader Nasser Al-Jabry , Abdullah Mohammed Al-Ghilany, Nasser Saleh Al-Ghilany, and Saeed Al-Hashemy, pending sentencing, which is scheduled to take place on 10 July 2012.
Insulting the Sultan of Oman or the so called “Offensive Writings”
A second group, whose trial took place in a special court on the same dates, attended only by their families, were accused of insulting the Sultan by publishing “offensive Writings.”
-Hamoud Saud Hamdan Al-Rashidy. (Storyteller)
-Abdullah Hamad Mubarak Al-Khorousy. (Poet)
-Ali Hilal Al-Mikbaly. (Activist)
-Mahmoud Hamad Thani Al-Rawahy. (Poet, also charged with illegal assembly
when he was arrested in the protest on June 11)
On 25 June 2012, the special court tried the four human rights defenders and refused to grant them bail. On 27 June 2012 the court resumed the secret trial of those arrested in the presence of a number of lawyers and parents. After questioning the four human rights activists, the judge again refused bail and adjourned the case to 9 July 2012, when it is scheduled to issue its verdict.
The GCHR and CIHRS believe that the aforementioned human rights defenders were detained solely as a result of their human rights activities and the legitimate exercise of their right to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) urge the authorities in Oman to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release Hamoud Saud Hamdan Al-Rashidy, Abdullah Hamad Mubarak Al-Khorousy, Ali Hilal Al-Mikbaly, and Mahmoud Hamad Thani Al-Rawahy as GCHR and CIHRS believe that they have been detained solely as a result of exercising their right to freedom of expression;
- Immediately and unconditionally release Khaled Saleh Al-Nawfaly, Mohammad Khalifa Al-Fazary, Mahmoud Hamad Thani Al-Rawahy, Mahmoud Mohamed Al-Jamody, and Mokhtar Mohamed Al-Hanaei as GCHR and CIHRS believe that they have been detained solely as a result of exercising their right to freedom of assembly;
- Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Hamoud Saud Hamdan Al-Rashidy, Abdullah Hamad Mubarak Al-Khorousy, Ali Hilal Al-Mikbaly, and Mahmoud Hamad Thani Al-Rawahy;
- Immediately and unconditionally drop all the charges against the aforementioned human rights defenders;
- 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.
GCHR and CIHRS respectfully remind you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 5: “For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels: (a) To meet or assemble peacefully.” and to Article 12 (2): “The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”