Muscat: The Muscat Primary Court in Al Khuwair on Wednesday sentenced 11 activists to one year in prison and slapped a 200 Omani riyal (Dh1,901) fine on them for wrongful gathering.
Justice Yousuf Al Faleti pronounced the judgement just before the end of the day’s proceedings.
Poet Saeed Al Hashmi, media person Baasma Rajhi, lawyer Basma Al Kiyumi, Mukhtar Al Hinai, Nasser Al Gailani, Mohammad Al Fazari, Mahmoud Al Rawahi, Khalid Al Nobli, Badar Al Jabri, Mohammad Al Janadi and Abdullah Al Gilani were sent to prison for a year and fined 200 riyals for wrongful gathering. All 11 will have to pay 1,000 riyals for an appeal in the higher court.
“Since the judgement came at the end of the day’s proceedings, we had no chance of filing appeal or applying for bail,” Badar Al Bahry, one of the team of lawyers representing the defence, told Gulf News at the end of the day on Wednesday.
With no room for appeal, all 11 were sent to prison, pending hearing on appeal and bail on Saturday. “We [lawyers] are shocked and sad,” Al Bahry said.
He explained that they were shocked because judement was delivered at the end of the day’s proceedings. “In normal circumstances, the court takes up cases for judgement first at the start of the day’s proceedings followed by hearings in cases,” he elaborated. However, he added, to their shock their clients’’ case was for judgement but was taken up at the end of the day’s proceedings.
“We had no time to either file for an appeal or bail,” he rued. Eight out of the 11 sentenced were outside on bail but with the sentence passed all 11 were sent back to prison. “At least until Saturday, they will be inside,” explained Al Bahry.
He also said that the amendment to the law about public (wrongful) gathering was made recently.
In another case of cyber law violations and lèse majesté, Osama Al Thuwaiya was given one-year imprisonment while the case of Maimoona Baadi, who is out on bail, was deferred to August 26.
Hearing in the cases of 12 other detainees, including leading activists like Esmail Al Muqbali, Sultan Al Sa’adi and Nabhan Hanashi were also deferred to August 26. Meanwhile, all the detainees have been shifted from the maximum-security Central jail in Sumayil to lock-ups in different police stations across the country.
“I am really concerned about these detainees locked up at local police stations,” Fatma Al Sa’adi, sister of Sultan Al Sa’adi, said. Her brother is in Muttrah police station. She alleged that these lock ups were not adequate and lacked basic minimum facilities.
With Wednesday’s verdict, the Muscat primary court has sentenced 29 people for either allegedly defaming Sultan Qaboos Bin Saaed and committing cybercrime or for wrongful gatherings.
Following protests in Tunisia and Egypt, Oman also witnessed peaceful demonstrations last year, starting with a Green March on January 17. The largely peaceful demonstrations were mainly confined to Sohar, Muscat, Salalah, Sur, Ibri and some other places.
However, at the end of February last year, the protests in Sohar turned violent and saw about six people killed in police action. The protesters were mainly demanding more jobs, better pay and working conditions and the removal of some alleged corrupt officials.
The country’s leader took prompt action by creating 50,000 jobs, instituting unemployment allowance and replacing ministers targeted by protesters with those elected in Shura. The Sultan also granted more powers to the 84-member elected Shura council.
The protests then died down, except for sporadic slogan shouting by private sector employees for better wages and working conditions.
Last May, Omani employees of contractors working for oil companies in the country went on strike. Some protests and subsequent arrests of activists followed.