Muawiyah Alrawahi (Twitter)
Muawiyah Alrawahi (Twitter)

Oman holding blogger Muawiyah Alrawahi at psychiatric hospital

New York, August 5, 2014–CPJ is concerned for the welfare of critical Omani blogger Muawiyah Alrawahi, who disappeared last month after being summoned by intelligence officials, according to human rights groups. A photo appeared on Twitter in recent days showing Alrawahi at the psychiatric department of Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, with his legs shackled, according to the London-based Monitor of Human Rights in Oman.

Alrawahi is known for using his blog and YouTube channel to discuss atheism and raise other sensitive topics, including criticism of Sultan Qaboos.

On July 11, Alrawahi published a post entitled “Ahmed Al-Bahri/Strike’s Scapegoat,” on his blog “Bo2 Bo2 Was3.” The post criticized Omani authorities for detaining several teachers and activists protesting the conviction of one teacher who was accused of participating in an October 2013 strike.

Alrawahi was later arrested in connection with the post, according to the regional human rights group the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information and other groups, which did not offer further details.

Nabhan Salim, manager of Monitor of Human Rights in Oman, told CPJ that Alrawahi was asked to appear July 12 in front of Omani intelligence officials for questioning about the post, and did not return home. He was sent to Al Masarra psychiatric hospital on July 16, then transferred a week later to the psychiatric department of Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, where he remains under guard of several police officers, Salim said. A colleague was able to visit Alrawahi in the hospital and take the photograph, which the colleague then shared on social media at Alrawahi’s request, Salim said. He declined to name the colleague for that person’s safety.

CPJ’s emails and calls to the Omani embassy in Washington, D.C., requesting an explanation for Alrawahi’s detention have not been returned.

“The shackles on Muawiyah Alrawahi’s feet make clear that he is not merely a patient seeking Oman’s renowned health care,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Coordinator. “We call on authorities to release the blogger immediately.”

Alrawahi was arrested before–in February 2012, after publishing a blog post titled “Yes, I’m out,” in which he expressed his distrust of Omani authorities, according to Global Voices Advocacy and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information.