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ANHRI condemns suspension of "Al Zaman", imprisonment of its editorial team

(ANHRI/IFEX) - 22 September 2011 - ANHRI condemns the decision issued on Wednesday 21 September 2011 by the Court of First Instance in Muscat, the capital of Oman. The decision calls for "Al Zaman" newspaper to be suspended for one month, and for its editor and managing editorial secretary, in addition to a civil servant in the Ministry of Justice, to serve five months in prison. They were charged with "insulting the dignity of the Minister and the Deputy Minister of Justice" based on a grievance from an employee in the ministry that the newspaper published. The court set bail of 200 RO ($521 US dollars) for each defendant while waiting for the appeal verdict.

The newspaper published a grievance last May from a public employee in the Ministry of Justice who had accused the Minister and his Deputy of depriving him of a salary grade increase and pressuring him to withdraw his lawsuit. The court sentenced Ibrahim Al Moamari, editor-in-chief, Yusuf Al Haj, managing editorial secretary, and Haron Al Moqibli, the civil servant in question, on the basis of this published grievance.

"Suspending the newspaper for a month and imprisoning its editorial team is a clear setback for freedom of opinion and expression," said ANHRI. "The Omani authorities should reconsider their decision and release the journalists and the employee of the Ministry of Justice. It should also seriously, and in a transparent fashion, investigate the claim brought forward by Al Moqibli."

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