Monday, July 16, 2012

Did the Omani Government break the law by publishing the photos of the activists jailed last week?

Everyone knows that the poets, 'activists' and others that were convicted of insulting his Majesty, Sultan Qaboos, have been sentenced to between 6 months and 1 year in prison.

And everyone who writes, comments, blogs, host's a forum, or writes or edits a newspaper seems worried that more arrests are likely.
Here's the report from the UAE's Gulf News:

Muscat: Literati in Oman has reacted angrily to government-owned media’s decision to publish photographs of four writers/poets in prison uniforms after being convicted by the Primary Court in Muscat last week. Both official dailies – Arabic as well as English – published the court verdict against Hamoud Al Rashdi (writer), Ali Al Muqbali (blogger), Hamad Al Kharousi (poet) and Mohammad Al Rawahi (poet) along with their photographs in prison uniform. The government-owned Oman News Agency had carried the news along with the photographs.

Three of the activists have been sentenced to one year in prison and one to six months in prison. Fifty nine signatories, including writers, poets, journalists, lawyers, activists, teachers, theatre personalities, students, and bloggers, demanded an apology from the news agency as well as publications for publishing the picture of four convicted activists with their photograph in prison uniform.

The signatories pointed out that the decision by the official media to publish the photographs of four convicted by the court was an unprecedented one and insulting to the four intellectuals in the country. All the signatories have termed it unacceptable and threatened boycott of Oman News Agency and two newspapers unless they apologise for publishing the pictures. “They are not traitors nor are they hard-core criminals then why publish their pictures that too in prison uniforms?” demanded writer Ebrahim Saeed.

He told Gulf News that it was sad that the report also carried graphic details of the convicted activists, including their birth place, tribe, residential place etc.

“It was shocking to see the report with picture of respected Omani poets and writers in prison uniform,” Turki Al Balushi, founder of Oman’s newest online publication , told Gulf News. Yaqoub Al Harthi, lawyer for some of the detained activists, told Gulf News that there was no need to publish details and photographs after conviction of the four.

“Some of them have made a mistake,” Al Harthi agreed, saying that writing against the country’s leader on social media was a mistake but didn’t deserve the kind of publicity given to their conviction in the official media. “What was the need to publish graphic details of the activists and their photographs in prison uniform?” he questioned.

The official Arabic daily, ‘Oman’, in an edit, clarified that it had no intention of insulting the convicted activists but as a whole news package it was decided to publish the photographs. The edit also confirmed that the Omani literati had sent a memorandum condemning the publication of the photographs.

Meanwhile, Al Harthi also said that the lawyers have had no opportunity for one-on-one meetings with the detained activists. “We have had to meet our clients only in the presence of guards,” he added. He represents Esmail Al Muqbali, who has been detention for over a month. “I have met Esmail only once in court in the presence of guards,” he said worriedly. However, Al Harthi said that last Wednesday he was informed by the authorities that he can meet his clients (activists) in the central prison in Sumayil. “I am still not sure if I would get to meet who and how,” he said. Esmail was one of the first three activists to be held when they went to meet striking workers of contractors working for the oil companies.

The protest by the 400-odd Omani employees of private contractors working for oil companies was the latest protests in Oman since the first Green Rally taken out in January last year after Arab Spring sparked protest in Tunisia and Egypt. The protests in Oman were different. People demanded employment, better working condition, improved wages and removal of alleged corrupt officials. The protests in some places, mainly Sohar turned violent and fatal but overall the protests were peaceful. Sultan Qaboos Bin Saeed responded positively by ordering creation of 50,000 jobs, starting unemployment allowance, making major changes to the cabinet and granting more powers to the elected Shura council.

Well done to those publicly and bravely calling for some review of this whole affair. Is someone in the Public Prosecution deliberately doing this to inflame people's opinions AGAINST HM Sultan Qaboos? Because this is really really stupid. And when something really stupid happens in Oman, it's usually some idiot in the Government, not asking HM what to do.

I can only interpret this as a knee jerk reaction from the old guard who somehow don't watch TV or surf the internet I guess. Because a few signs and some blogging that sort-of criticise HM is hardly the stuff of sedition. But strikes will certainly hurt the rich and powerful businessmen.

The problem I've always had are these incompetent fools in positions of power who already use the vast swathes of the law - a law that already makes it illegal to do or publish almost anything in reference to the Government - to then go on and wrap themselves in the protection of lese majesty laws. They wave HM's name to cover their own sins.

As a result, Oman is being unfairly dragged into the mud of international opinion that's putting us in the company of Bahrain and Saudi, and begging ignorant comparisons even with Yemen and Syria.

But then to top it off by publishing their photo and biography is quite unbelievable. They have no idea that while most Omanis, knowing only what is in the official media, may not like these protestors I don't think they want them in jail on such petty charges when we know that is not why they are really being arrested.

Overseas followers of Muscat Confidential should understand that this publishing of their pics is illegal in Oman and strongly goes against the traditions of the culture. Why to even publish the photo of a common thief is agreed to be an insult to their family (who are innocent, goes the argument) and is illegal under defamation laws.

Or it seemed to be. Because now the Government have published these photos, almost it seems as a deliberate slap in the face to them, their families and associates. Clear intimidation.

So, what I want to know is Mr Public Prosecutor, is it still illegal to publish details and photos of convicted people, and thus by implication that the Government has broken that defamation law? Or is it suddenly not illegal to do this now, so Muscat Daily can now have a Court Report, complete with photos and full names?

Or is it perhaps that you just make this shit up as you go ? Because you are so used to doing what you like, arresting who you like, bullying who you like, always having your way because you're so sure you're in the right, and because you're the Government, you're untouchable by definition?

And denying them legal advice achieves what, exactly?

Does no-one in this abysmal mis-handled cock-up of a response (to a few people making a nuisance of themselves to the Oligarchs) even notice that the Government are breaking the very same law and tradition that captures the moral spirit of the laws they are at the same time using to put some harmless poets and shit-stirrers in jail for a year?? [slap forehead]

His Majesty must move to more rapidly develop a constitutional monarchy, with an administration founded on the generation born after he came to power. There needs to be a significantly greater separation between His Majesty and Government, so lese majesty laws (which within reason seem perfectly OK to me as they apply to a Sovereign) can be removed from restricting public protests and discussions on Government and policy.

The system could be inspired by that of Jersey, one of the Sandwich Islands, ruled by the Sovereign of the British Isles for more than 900 years, with an appointed Governor and head of Parliament with elected members.

Which is ironic, because the current massive over-reaction to a few Omanis with the balls to complain are reminiscent of Queen Elizabeth alright, except it's Queen Elizabeth the first. You don't see Lizzie throwing people in the Tower of London for such petty nonsense, it's beneath her to stoop to such things.

Time is running out Sultan Qaboos. Because these other idiots all seem to think that they can behave as if they are the Sultan, throwing their weight around and telling people what to say, what to do, if it doesn't please them. Oman is increasing full of little dictators who abuse the system of governance to put these draconian laws between themselves and the people.

Oh, and where are the corruption investigations? Or is the official position that there isn't any? Because HM has nothing to fear from the people, as we all know. It's only incompetent Ministers and their minions who need worry about them I guess. And that's what this is really all about, isn't it Mr. Public Prosecution?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Oman Football Association scores own goal with FIFA

The Oman Football Association were in a spot of bother earlier this month. 3 clubs had taken the Association to court in a squabble over who runs things, and won a decision to overturn t he election of FIFA's official body in the Sultanate.

FIFA were not impressed, and responded that no court tells FIFA what to do, and that they had observed and approved the election. They sent the OFA a letter stating that should the courts decision be implemented, they would throw Oman out of FIFA, meaning no World cup 2014 qualifying matches.

FIFA has reminded the Oman Football Association that all FIFA member associations must manage their affairs independently and without influence of any third parties, as clearly stipulated in articles 13 and 17 of the FIFA Statutes. This is in relation to the apparent award by the Administrative Court in the Sultanate of Oman on 25 June 2012 following an appeal by three OFA clubs, in connection with the OFA elections of August 2011, the enforcement of which would allegedly entail the nullification of said elections and the organisation of a new electoral process, FIFA confirms that the OFA elections were held under the strict observation of FIFA and AFC representatives and that those representatives duly asserted that the procedure of the election of the Board of Directors was carried out in accordance and conformity with the precepts of the OFA statutes. FIFA stresses that article 64 of the FIFA Statutes state that recourse to ordinary courts is, as a general rule, prohibited and that all FIFA member associations must ensure this stipulation is adhered to by their members. Should the aforementioned award of the Administrative Court materialise, the matter would be referred to the relevant FIFA bodies to take appropriate measures, which could extend to an immediate and indefinite suspension of the OFA. Such a suspension would jeopardise the participation of Oman in the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers and in other international competitions, and would also mean that neither the OFA nor any of its members or officials could benefit from any development programme, course, or training from FIFA or AFC while the OFA is suspended.

Ooops. Cue panic.
OFA news release.

So now
Sayyid Al Busaidi, is refusing the court oder and appealing to the Ministry of Sport. He wants the minister to somehow reverse the court by force of personality I guess, and give them the red card.

Yesterday the Oman Football Association met with 35 local clubs to discuss the verdict issued by the Administrative Court following a case filed by three clubs in Oman, Seeb and Muscat to dissolve the OFA board. All of the 35 clubs that attended the meeting restated their support for the current OFA board and expressed the need to unite to resolve the current case filed with the Supreme Judicial Council. The board of members have rejected any resignation suggestions by the three clubs and will continue to run the OFA until the end of the current tenure – 24 August 2015. Sayyid Khalid Bin Hamad Al Busaidi, OFA Chairman, said: “We have reached the decision to appeal to the Ministry of Sports Affairs to request the Administrative Court to pause the implementation of the verdict issued last week as a result of inaccurate data provided during the trial. We are confident that the OFA can work together with the support of the local clubs to help revise the court decision in order to retain The OFA has also approved the formation of a dedicated committee of nine representatives from local clubs and the OFA to oversee the process with the Ministry of Sports Affairs. In the meantime, the OFA board will approach the three clubs that filed the court case last year and try to convince them to withdraw their complaints in the effort to preserve the OFA’s reputation and the future of Omani football.  

There have been issues with Oman's soccer administration before, with the election contested, and actual voting for a position with power. The leadership of the most popular sport in Oman gives access to funding, lots of overseas trips, and wasta. It'll be interesting to see how this is resolved. Most likely by the 3 plaintiffs being strong armed into withdrawing the complaint, somehow even after judgement. Do any readers have some insight into the deeper currents behind this struggle?