Omani Cyber Activists’ Prison Convictions Upheld
An Omani appellate court on Wednesday upheld the convictions of eight bloggers charged with cyber crimes and insulting the country’s leader, Sultan Qaboos Bin Saeed, last spring. The convictions were originally handed down in a court of first instance in December in the trials of over 40 individuals charged with defaming the sultan, violating cyber laws and wrongfully gathering in support of striking oil workers on May 31. The bloggers now face jail terms between six and 18 months and a fine of $2,600. One judgement was suspended, while another’s has been served. In the last two weeks the appeals court has upheld the sentences for 29 of the cases, sending 28 individuals to jail for terms of six months to one year.
Elsewhere in the region, a Saudi Arabian court sentenced an Egyptian rights lawyer to five years in prison and 300 lashes for drug-trafficking charges, which carries a death sentence. Ahmed Al-Gizawi was charged with bringing thousands of tablets of Xanax into the Kingdom – where the drug is banned- last April while on pilgrimage. Rights activists in the region, however, have called Al-Gizawi’s arrest politically motivated for his criticism of the kingdom’s treatment of Egyptians living in the country. On Al-Gizawi’s arrest in April, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information said, “ANHRI expressed its shock of Saudi courts to prosecute an Egyptian citizen and render a judgment against him without being notified of the charges and without even his defense attendance, all because of his criticism of the authorities violating rights of Egyptian citizens in its territory…” Al-Gizawi was previously sentenced by a Saudi court to a year in prison and 20 lashes for his remarks, although he was unaware of the charges.