MUSCAT (AFP) – Amnesty International has urged the Gulf sultanate of Oman to release an elderly politician it says was detained last year for taking part in an environmental protest.
“The case against Talib al-Maamari appears to be politically motivated and based solely on his participation in a peaceful protest,” said Amnesty’s Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.
“Maamari is a prisoner of conscience – convicted for peacefully expressing his opinion and he faced an unfair trial that seemed destined to ensure that he remained in prison.
“He should be immediately and unconditionally released,” she said in a statement issued late Thursday.
Maamari, an 84-year-old member of Oman’s elected Majlis al-Shura consultative council, appeared to have been arrested in August last year on allegations of “undermining the status of the state”.
Amnesty said the accusation was related to “a protest near the port of Sohar, Liwa province, against pollution and environmental degradation caused by a nearby industrial plant”.
The London-based human rights watchdog said Maamari was initially convicted of “security-related and public order offences”, but this was overturned in February.
Maamari then faced a re-trial “plagued by irregularities” including “erroneous and misleading” summaries by the presiding judge of court evidence about a different demonstration to the one he attended on August 22, 2013.
Oman was shaken by the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, with protests calling for better living conditions prompting Sultan Qaboos to reshuffle his government and expand the consultative assembly.
But young activists and bloggers have been convicted of defaming or using Internet social media networks to insult Sultan Qaboos, who has ruled the Gulf sleepy sultanate for 44 years.
Others have been convicted or facing trial for taking part in demonstrations calling for political reform.