Urgent Action Update: Journalists' Sentences Reduced, One Acquitted (Oman: UA 206/16)

Urgent Action
January 11, 2017
On 26 December, the Appeal Court in Muscat reduced the three-year prison sentences of two Azamn journalists, Ibrahim al-Maamari and Youssef al-Haj, to six and 12 months respectively. They are prisoners of conscience. A third Azamn journalist, Zahar al-Abri, was acquitted.
The three year prison sentences of Azamn editor-in-chief Ibrahim al-Maamari and deputy editor-in-chief, Youssef al-Haj, were reduced to six months and one year respectively by the Appeal Court in Muscat, Oman’s capital, on 26 December 2016. Their fines were also reduced from 3,000 Omani rials (about US$7,800) to 1,000 Omani rials (about US$2,600) each. The time they have already spent in detention will be taken into account. The two journalists have been taken to Oman’s Central Prison in Samail, south west of Muscat, to serve the remainder of their sentences. Their lawyer has lodged a fresh appeal against their conviction and sentences before the Supreme Court. At the same appeal hearing, on 26 December, Zaher al-Abri, another Azamn journalist, was acquitted and the court overturned the Ministry of Information’s decision to close the Azamn newspaper. However, despite the court’s ruling, the Minister for Information extended the closure of the newspaper for another three months on 8 January.
On 26 September 2016, the Court of First Instance in Muscat sentenced Ibrahim al-Maamari and Youssef al-Haj to three years’ imprisonment after convicting them of “undermining the prestige of the state” and other charges under Oman’s cybercrimes law and press and publications law.  Zaher al-Abri was sentenced to one year imprisonment and a fine for misusing the internet. The three journalists’ trial before the Appeal Court began on 10 October 2016. The court ordered the release of Ibrahim al-Maamari and Youssef al-Haj after reducing their bail from 50,000 rials (US$ 130,000) each to 2,000 rials (US$ 5,200). Zaher al-Abri had been released on 22 August on bail pending appeal for 1,000 rials (about US$ 2,600).
Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:
  • Calling on the Omani authorities to immediately and unconditionally release prisoners of conscience, Ibrahim al-Maamari and Youssef al-Haj;
  • Calling on them to ensure that, pending their release, the two men are protected from torture and other ill-treatment, granted regular access to their lawyers and families, and receive any medical care they require;
  • Urging the Omani authorities to respect and protect the right to freedom of expression and to repeal or amend all legislation that criminalizes the peaceful exercise of this right.
Contact these two officials by 22 February, 2017:
Minister of Justice
Sheikh Abdul Malik al-Khalili
Ministry of Justice
PO Box 354
Ruwi PC 112
Muscat, Sultanate of Oman
Twitter: @moj_gov 
Salutation: Your Excellency
H.E. Hunaina Sultan Al-Mughairy
Embassy of Oman
2535 Belmont Rd NW, Washington DC 20008
Fax: 1 202 745 4933  I  Phone: 1 202 387 1980
Salutation: Dear Ambassador
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