Oman: Prisoner of conscience Abdullah al-Shahi sentenced to life in Prison

On 22 May 2019, Amnesty international released a report concerning the trial and the sentence of prisoner of conscience Abdullah al-Shahi in Oman.

Between August and November 2018, Oman sentenced six individuals to life in prison on vague grounds of national security. Recently, Amnesty International has obtained more details about the trial and its background which establish that the defendant Mohammed Abdullah al-Shahi is a prisoner of conscience.

Mohammed Abdullah al-Shahi was convicted on charges such as “providing ideas for, writing, and transmitting articles” – mainly published on the website khalejeat.net which is now shut down – which condemned the Omani government’s policies in Musandam. He was also convicted on a charge of contributing 100 Omani riyals (≈ $250 U.S. today) to a fund for promotion of regional autonomy, and unsuccessfully requesting financial backing for his cause from the Saudi embassy in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). He was therefore described as a secessionist conspiracist.

The 5 other defendants were convicted for their involvement in khalejeat.net content and also for starting a group called the National Committee for the Defense of Ru’us al-Jibal (the local name for Musandam), and in general for their peaceful activism and campaigns for the rights of Musandam’s residents. According to Amnesty International’s information, the group engaged only in non-violent activism, denouncing the human rights violations in Musandam and the poor socioeconomic conditions.

The 6 defendants were convicted based on Article 125 of the Penal Code, which imposes life in prison or a death sentence on “anyone intentionally committing an act which leads to the infringement of the country’s independence or unity or the sanctity of its territory,” and Article 19 of the Law on Combating Information Technology Crimes, which criminalizes Internet material “infringing on religious values or public order.”

Abdullah al-Shahi and the other defendant did not have a fair trial. For instance, during the first court hearing, he had to answer question without the presence of an attorney. The evidence cited against al-Shahi in court relied only of his “confessions” before the Internal Security Agency and the Office of Public Prosecution, which were extracted under torture.

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) strongly condemns the ruling of the Omani Court and asks to drop the charges and release immediately prisoner of conscience Abdullah al-Shahi.

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