Oman Blogger Risks Prison After “Sowing Unrest” on Facebook and Blog

Saeed Jaddad, 48, a human rights activist in the Gulf country of Oman, has been released on bail after paying a fine, but still faces prison for other charges, Amnesty International has reported.

Saeed Jaddad

On March 7, Jaddad was sentenced to three years behind bars after he took to Facebook and his blog – which has restricted access – to commemorate his country’s 2011 protests, which were part of the pro-democracy Arab Spring.

Described by Amnesty International as a “prisoner of conscience”, Jaddad was also ordered to pay a fine of 1,700 Omani Riyals ($4,400) in addition to his jail term on the three charges of “undermining the status and prestige of the state”, “incitement to protest” and “using social media to disseminate information that infringed on the sanctity of public order”.

In a separate charge, on March 31, he was sentenced by the Salalah Criminal Court to one year in prison for “cyber crimes”. In April 7, Jaddad was released on bail by the Appeal Court in Salalah, after paying the equivalent of $1,300 for that charge. However, due to his other charges, Jaddad still faces further imprisonment.

Jaddad was a key organizer in the 2011 protests in his southern hometown of Salalah, the second-largest city in Oman after the capital, Muscat.

In 2013, Jaddad was arrested and detained without charge, according to the New York-based Human Rights Watch. Prior to that, he had met with members of the European Parliament to discuss the human rights situation in Oman. He went on hunger strike in January, 2014, after which his health deteriorated. HRW says he has high blood pressure, heart and back problems, and was denied his medication by the authorities detaining him.

Despite bringing into law, in 2004, the guarantee of the right to freedom of opinion, Oman has been criticized for stifling free speech. Dozens of bloggers and activists have been convicted in recent years of defaming Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said, who has ruled for over 40 years.

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