Gulf States, particularly Bahrain, have witnessed similar clampdowns recently
Muscat – Arabstoday
An Omani appeal court has upheld sentences against seven bloggers convicted of insulting the country's ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Saeed.
The defendants were among 42 activists and bloggers
on trial following their arrests last spring for expressing their support of striking oil workers, Gulf News reported.
The three-judge panel affirmed the convictions of five men who have been sentenced by a lower court to a year in prison and $2,600 fines.
Two men were ordered to serve 18 months in jail and pay $2,600 fines.
The sentences of two other men were reduced.
Ishaq Al Aghbari was also set free, reportedly because he had already served time in jail. “He had spent over three months in prison and his sentence was reduced to three months by the Appeal Court so he was set free,” an activist, who was present in court, told Gulf News.
In the past two weeks, the appeals court has affirmed sentences in 29 different cases.
The crackdown began after former volleyball player Habiba Al Hinai, Sohar-based activist Esmail Al Muqbali and Yaqoub Al Kharusi were detained in Fahoud, having expressed solidarity with the country’s striking oil field workers on May 31 last year.
Oman’s authorities proceeded to arrest bloggers, activists and journalists who criticised the arrests.
They all face charges of wrongful gathering or insulting the country's ruler, or both
The press freedom NGO, Reporters Without Borders, condemned the Omani government's “illegal and random” conduct at the time of the arrests.
Other Gulf states have witnessed similar clampdowns on journalism and social media in recent weeks.
Bahrain imprisoned a leading rights activist, Said Yousif al-Muhafda, in December after he live-tweeted clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces in Manama. He was charged with “disseminating false information regarding the clashes.”
Oman was ranked joint-117th in Reporters Without Borders’ annual Press Freedom Index, ranked on par with Venezuela and Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.