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Oman: Twenty-one prisoners launch hunger strike



Twenty-one jailed activists in Oman launched a hunger strike over the weekend to protest delays in their judicial proceedings, a lawyer said.

Yaqoob al-Harthy, who represents seven of the prisoners, told Al-Akhbar that 17 activists jailed for using the Internet to criticize the government, or for taking part in anti-government rallies, began refusing food on Saturday, February 9.

Four others followed suit on Sunday when prison authorities committed one of the detainees, Said al-Hashemi, to solitary confinement after suspecting him of having orchestrated the hunger strike.

“Said was put in solitary confinement because they thought that he was the person who had instigated the hunger strike, but he is just a member,” Harthy said.

The lawyer is due to visit the activists in Sumail Prison on Monday, he added.

The prisoners are serving sentences ranging from six to 18 months after being convicted of violating the country’s cyber law, or for taking part in “unlawful gatherings.”

They are now protesting delays for their appeals to be heard before the Supreme Court.

“The prisoners will continue their strike open endedly until their demands for the justice system are met,” Harthy said.

In a letter drafted Saturday, the prisoner wrote:

In assertion of our free will, and in protest against the judiciary’s practices and its delay in the final decision by the courts, we, the prisoners of opinion and expression, announce the beginning of an open-ended hunger strike starting from 9/2/2013 until our oppression stops, until justice and fairness in the high court is demanded at the earliest time possible, and until the blatant interference in the Omani judiciary is halted.

Oman has come under fire by human rights groups over its persecution of dissidents.

Amnesty International published a 2012 report which faulted police for using excessive force against demonstrators, causing the deaths of two individuals. The report also condemned a law that allows authorities to charge people who criticize the government over the Internet.

Human Rights Watch has also published a slew of reports calling for the release of political prisoners in Oman.

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