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Cairo 16 March 2009

Today, the Arabic Network for Human Rights information denounced the trial of journalist and internet activist Ali al-Zwaidi for allegedly violating article 61 of the telecommunications law in Oman. This is a crime punishable with up to a year in jail. Al-Zwaidi was charged for allowing the publication of an article on suspicions of corruption in the Omantel Telecommunications Company. 70% of the company is owned by the Omani government, and the rest of the shares are circulated on the stock exchange.

Al-Zwaidi has been a prominent writer in the Omani press for twenty years. He raised many socially relevant topics in the press, but has moved to online writing, like many other writers, due to the tightening up on paper press to ban the discussion of topics related to corruption in some government bodies.

The details of the case go back to August 2009 when al-Zwaidi allowed, as a supervisor in Sablat Oman forum, the publication of an article dealing with suspicions of corruption in Omantel. The officials in the forum removed the article because it was signed by an anonymous author. Al-Zwaidi, and other internet activists in Oman, thought the case was over until, to their surprise, al-Zwaidi was arraigned to be put on trial on 24 Feb 2009. The trial was postponed until the 17th March.

The Arabic Network for Human Rights condemns the trial of journalist Ali al-Zwaidi. ANHRI also asserts that Omantel should have used the pen to respond to what was published against it. Words should only be faced by words. ANHRI thinks the prosecution should have verified whether the publications were truthful, as the freedom of expression is guaranteed by article 29 of the Omani constitution and all related international covenants.