OMAN: prominent writer’s appeal forthcoming

28 November 2016 – Update #2 to RAN 09/16

PEN International calls on the Omani authorities to overturn the sentence of writer and intellectual Abdullah Habib. Habib, 53, was sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of 2000 Omani Rials (approx. US$2,600) on 8 November 2016. He was convicted on charges including contempt of religion, spreading hatred and blasphemy, as well as using the internet to publish material that prejudice religious values or public order. His appeal is due to be heard on 5 December 2016.

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Send Appeals:

  • Calling on the Omani authorities to quash the conviction and sentence of writer and intellectual Abdullah Habib;
  • Urging the Omani authorities to accede to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights without delay and reminding them that, in line with the UN’s 1998 Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the government must provide protection to human rights defenders, including against any violence, threats, retaliation or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of the legitimate exercise of their rights.

Addresses:

Minister of Justice

Sheikh Abdul Malik bin Abdullah al-Khalili
Ministry of Justice
PO Box 354
RUWI PC 112
Muscat, Sultanate of Oman
E-mail: info [at] moj.gov [dot] om
Twitter: @moj_gov
Salutation: Your Excellency

Minister of the Interior
His Excellency Hamoud bin Faisal bin Said Al Busaidi
Ministry of Interior
PO Box 127, Ruwi 112
Muscat, Sultanate of Oman
Salutation: Your Excellency

And copies to:

Chairman, Oman Human Rights Commission
Dr ‘Isa Bin Sa’id Sulayman al-Kiyumi
Fill in form at: http://www.ohrc.om/website_complaintsa dden.php?language=en
Sultanate of Oman
Fax: +968 24 2189 06

PUBLICITY

PEN members are encouraged to:

  • Publish articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press highlighting the situation about freedom of expression in Oman.
  • Organise public events, stage readings, press conferences or demonstrations.
  • Share information about Oman and your campaigning activities for Abdullah Habib via social media

Background

Abdullah Habib is a prolific writer, poet, and film critic. He holds a PhD/ABD (2005) in Critical Film Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he has taught courses in “Third World Cinema”, and “Cinema and Social Change”. A member of the founding committee of cinema in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), he has also directed several short films, including “The Statue” and “This is Not a Pipe”, for which he received the Abu Dhabi Cultural Association Award in 1992. Habib has also published twelve books of poetry and short story collections. In 2013, Habib was honoured by the General Secretariat of the Gulf Cooperation Council for his excellence in cultural production.

On the evening of 15 April 2016, the Omani Internal Security Service (ISS) summoned Habib to appear for investigation before the Special Division of the Omani Police General Command in Muscat. He was held in detention, without charge or access to his lawyer, until his release on 3 May 2016.

Prior to his arrest, Habib had posted a status on Facebook in which he called for the Omani government to reveal the location of the bodies of rebels executed during the Dhofar Rebellion, an insurgency which took place in the south of Oman between 1962-1976 (see RAN 09/16 for more details).

Upon his release, Habib posted an account of his experience in detention and expressed regret if his previous Facebook posts had caused any harm to Omani unity.

On 11 July 2016, Habib was reportedly arrested after he published comments and posts on his Facebook page during the month of Ramadan, relating to fasting and prayers in the Islamic faith. He was released on 28 July.

On 8 November 2016, Habib was reportedly sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of 2000 Omani Rials (approx. US$2,600), convicted on charges including contempt of religion, spreading hatred, blasphemy, and using the internet to publish material that prejudice religious values or public order. His appeal is expected to be heard on 5 December 2016.

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