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(New York) – Amnesty International today demanded that authorities in Oman reveal where and why they are holding six people arrested during a recent peaceful protest in Muscat, the capital, as more than two dozen others faced trial on protest-related charges.
Fifteen people were arrested by Omani security forces on May 14 during a protest calling for the release of others detained two days earlier in pro-reform protests.
Some were released but it is not known where the remaining six are or if any charges have been brought against them.
Another group of 27 men who had taken part in protests during March and April appeared before a Muscat court Wednesday and were charged with offenses including banditry, setting fire to government buildings, and insulting officials. The men pleaded not guilty and the case was adjourned until May 23. Two of the men, Khaled al-Hantholi, and ‘Ammar al-Hani’i, were not granted bail and remain detained at the Central Prison.
Following the May 14 arrests, prominent female lawyer Basma al-Kiyumi was released on May 16, and the next day eight other activists were released, among them Muhammad al-Habssi and Ibrahim Sa’id al-Hajri. It is not known where the remaining six – including Nabhan al-Hanashi – are, or if any charges have been brought against them
“The authorities in Oman must immediately provide details on the whereabouts of all protesters being held and either charge them with a recognizable criminal offense or release them,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program director.
“If they are being detained solely for participating in a peaceful public protest they should be released immediately and unconditionally.”
“Any charges should be made public, and trials against the accused must conform to international fair trial standards.”
Amnesty International is concerned that those who continue to be held following the protest in Muscat on May 14 are being detained incommunicado and may be at risk of torture or ill-treatment.
Basma al-Kiyumi was charged in connection with participating in an unlawful gathering and released on bail to await trial at future date. It is not clear if other protesters who were released on May 17 were charged or not.
At least three people have been killed and others injured during recent public protests in Oman amid allegations that the security forces have used excessive force against protesters. The calls for political change in Oman take their inspiration from recent protests across the Middle East and North Africa, including in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, and Oman’s neighbour Yemen.
In February and March, Oman’s head of state Sultan Qaboos conceded to some demands, including creating more jobs, increasing unemployment benefits and sacking several ministers in his cabinet.
But protesters continue to call for more ministers to be held to account for alleged abuses of power, as well as for other promised reforms to be implemented, including a relaxation of Oman’s tight restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly.