Posted on 2011/07/28
Human rights defender and journalist Mr Yousif Al-Haj is the subject of a criminal investigation and has been banned from writing or publishing articles by the Minister of Information since 8 July 2011.
The ban on writing stems from the publication of an article in which Yousif Al-Haj exposes the Minister of Justice and his Undersecretary for refusing to increase the salary and grade of a civil servant who has worked for the Omani State for a number of years. Yousif Al-Haj is a journalist with the Al-Zaman newspaper, and writes extensively on politics and social issues in Oman.
It is believed that the Public Prosecutor's Office advised the Minister for Information to issue the ban following the interrogation of Yousif Al-Haj on 5 July 2011. The ban is allegedly linked to the publication of an article on 14 May 2011 in which Yousif Al-Haj discusses the case of a civil servant who was refused an increase in his salary and grade by the Minister of Justice and his Undersecretary.
On 5 July 2011, Yousif Al-Haj received a phone call from the Public Prosecutor's Office ordering that he present himself immediately for questioning at the office regarding the publication of the aforementioned article. Because of such short notice, Yousif Al-Haj did not have sufficient time to call his lawyer, therefore there was no legal professional present during the interrogation.
Following the interrogation, Yousif Al-Haj was charged with: (1) Abusing the Minister of Justice and his Undersecretary; (2) Attempting to create a division in society; (3) Abusing the judiciary in Oman; (4) Violating the Publications and Publishing Law (Article 60); (5) Practicing a profession without a permit from the Ministry of Information. Yousif Al-Haj was not arrested, however he remains the subject of a criminal investigation. It is reported that during his interrogation, Yousif Al-Haj was threatened that he would be imprisoned because of the aforementioned article.
Yousif Al-Haj has been interrogated on three separate occasions in the past regarding other articles he has written, however this is the first time that a ban has been placed on him, prohibiting him from writing in future.
The designer of the Al-Zaman newspaper was also interrogated. When he stated that he was acting under orders given to him by the editor-in-chief, he was allowed to leave.
Front Line believes that the criminal investigation launched against, as well as the ban placed on, Yousif Al-Haj is solely a result of his legitimate work in the defence of human rights, in particular. his publication of articles that are critical of the Government.