Omani businessman sentenced to two years in prison for peaceful social media activity

Omani businessman sentenced to two years in prison for peaceful social media activity

Hani al-Sarhani is a Omani businessman and a well-known critic of the Omani government. In 2022, al-Sarhani was arrested for posting a video and organising a sit-in to protest against the dire economic situation in Oman and the poor reforms taken by the government. He was sentenced to 1 year in prison for these acts. In August 2023, he was arrested once again for peacefully protesting on social media against economic reforms and how it impacts the rights and livelihoods of Omani individuals. He was sentenced to two years in prison by the lower courts in Oman, and was released on bail. His hearing before the higher court will be held on December 18, 2023, where he is risking a new prison sentence.

Al-Sarhani is a well-known businessman and vocal critic of the Omani government. In 2022, he was arrested on multiple occasions for voicing his concern about the economic situation in Oman and the decreasing livelihood of Omani individuals. He was arrested multiple times for his activity on Youtube and for organising a sit-in in Muscat, and was consequently sentenced to 1 year in prison.

On August 9, 2023, al-Sarhani received a phone call from Azaiba Police Station ordering him to go to the station as soon as possible. He arrived at the Azaiba Police Station at 12 pm on the same day. Upon arrival, he was immediately stripped of all his belongings and was arrested on the spot. The authorities refused to tell him the reason for the arrest, and he was not shown any arrest warrant. He was put in a car and transferred to al-Khoud Detention Center. There, he was interrogated by two individuals, including one who identified himself as belonging to the Internal Security Services. The interrogation concerned mainly his social media activity across different platforms, i.e., Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and WhatsApp. He was shown different tweets and was asked to respond to them and confirm whether he was the author. Each time he responded that his tweets were intended to shed light on the dire conditions of Omanis and the violation of their rights due to the poor policies of the authorities. He pointed out that all his tweets were in accordance with the laws of Oman and were simply a call for reform. On August 22, 2023, he was forced to sign a full statement of his interrogation. The statement that was shown to him was incorrect, did not contain all the information and was not mentioning the name of the interrogators.

This interrogation was undergone under duress as he was held in dire detention conditions and in prolonged periods of solitary confinement. He was held in a very small prison cell with constant lighting on him, and was placed in solitary confinement with closed windows. During this time, he was also denied communication with his family, as well as with his lawyer. He filed complaints to the Court of First Instance in Muscat but never received a response, which leads him to believe his complaints were not even referred to the designated authority.

He was first presented before the Public Prosecution on September 7, 2023, nearly 30 days after he was placed in detention. On that day, the Public Prosecution extended his detention for seven days, until September 13, 2023, and again for another seven days until September 21, 2023.

On October 19, 2023, al-Sarhani was sentenced to two years in prison for “seeking to disturb the public order” by the Court of First Instance in Muscat, his bail was set to 600 Omani Rials. He was also ordered to pay a fine of 1000 Omani Rials. Mr al-Sarhani’s sentencing was based on article 19 of the Anti-Cybercrime Law which criminalises the use of social media platforms as a means to disturb public order, and article 115 of the Criminal Code which criminalises the broadcasting of information that undermine the reputation of the State.

The sole evidence used for his sentencing is the incomplete and falsified statements he signed during his interrogation under duress. His mobile phones which were confiscated upon arrest, were restored to him as the Court considered that there was no evidence that these devices were used to commit the crimes.

He was released on the same day as the judgment, on October 19, 2023, after paying the bail.

His case is currently pending before the Supreme Court of Oman, his hearing will be held on December 18, 2023, and he is risking a sentence of at least two years in prison. 

On December 13, 2023, MENA Rights Group and the Omani Centre for Human Rights requested the urgent intervention of the UN Special Rapporteurs on torture, freedom of expression and human rights defenders to overturn his sentence.


March 12, 2024: Omani authorities arrest al-Sarhani.
December 13, 2023: MENA Rights Group and the Omani Centre for Human Rights request the urgent intervention of UN Special Procedures to overturn his sentence.
October 19, 2023: Al-Sarhani is sentenced to two years in prison by the Court of First Instance in Muscat. That same day he is released on bail, which is set to 600 Omani Riyals.
September 7, 2023: Al-Sarhani appears for the first time before the public prosecution since his arrest.
August 9, 2023: Al-Sarhani is summoned by the Azaiba police for questioning. After reaching the police station on the same day, he is stripped of his belongings and arrested on the spot.
October 27, 2022: Al-Sarhani is sentenced to 1 year in prison. He is released on bail which was set to 300 Omani Riyals. His social media accounts are shut down.
October 20, 2022: Al-Sarhani is released pending a court verdict.
August 27, 2022: Al-Sarhani and his colleagues stage a sit-in in Muscat to protect against the dire living conditions of Omani citizens and the decreased livelihood in Oman. He is arrested on the spot.
August 9, 2022: Al-Sarhani is arrested for posting the video on his YouTube channel. He is released a few days later.
August 5, 2022: Al-Sarhani posts a video on YouTube criticising economic reforms undertaken by the government.