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Oman court jails journalists, closes down newspaper

MUSCAT, September 26, 2016

A court in Oman on Monday ordered the permanent closure of a newspaper which had reported on alleged corruption within the judiciary, and jailed three of its journalists on charges that included undermining the prestige of the state.

Witnesses at the court said Ibrahim Al-Mamari, editor-in-chief of the privately owned Azamn newspaper, and his deputy and managing editor Youssef Al-Balushi, were jailed for three years and fined RO3,000 ($7,800) each. A third journalist was jailed for a year.

Azamn had extensively covered a series of corruption cases in 2014 in which several company executives were convicted.

Omani authorities suspended the newspaper in August for a month after detaining the three journalists. In a statement which did not mention Azamn by name, they said it had exceeded the limits of free speech and "drifted into ... harming one of the pillars of the state, the judiciary."

The Muscat Court of First Instance found Mamari and Balushi guilty on four charges, including undermining the prestige of the state, disturbing public order, misusing the internet, and publishing details of a personal status case.

It also convicted Balushi of slander and of publishing a report in violation of a ban imposed by the Information Ministry on any reporting related to Mamari's arrest.

The third journalist, Zaher al-Abri, was sentenced to one year in jail and fined RO1,000.

The court set a bail of RO50,000 for Mamari and Balushi in case they decided to appeal the rulings, while Abri's bail was set at RO5,000.

Five years ago a court ordered the newspaper closed down for one month and Mamari and a reporter were given five-month suspended jail sentences for insulting the justice minister and other officials.-Reuters

Tags: Oman | Court | Journalist | Azamn |

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