An Omani blogger, Alrawahi was detained at a checkpoint while attempting to enter the United Arab Emirates by car from Oman, according to news reports and local and international human rights groups. The next day, Alrawahi called Mohammad al-Fazari, an Omani human rights activist, and said he had not been allowed to enter the United Arab Emirates and that UAE border security had seized his travel documents, according to the human rights group Amnesty International and news reports.
A state security court in the UAE charged Alrawahi under the cybercrimes law with “inciting hate and disrupting public order and social peace” and “ridiculing the State and its leaders” in connection with posts he wrote on his blog, YouTube channel, and Twitter account, according to news reports and international human rights groups. If convicted, he faces at least one year in jail and a fine of up to one million dirhams (around $272,260) for each charge, according to reports citing the official Emirates News Agency.
In the journalist’s first hearing on September 14, 2015, he denied the charges and said he had been forced under “mental and physical pressure” to “confess,” according to news reports and a report by Amnesty International.
Alrawahi is known for using his blog, “Bo2 Bo2 Was3,” and social media sites, including YouTube, to discuss atheism and raise other sensitive topics, including criticism of Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said. In July 2014, Alrawahi published a post that criticized Omani authorities for detaining teachers and activists protesting the conviction of one teacher who was accused of participating in an October 2013 strike. The blogger later disappeared after being summoned by intelligence officials, according to human rights groups. A photo appeared on Twitter weeks later that showed him at the psychiatric department of Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, with his legs shackled, according to the London-based Monitor of Human Rights in Oman. He was released on August 11, 2014.
In November 2014, a post on the blogger’s Facebook page said he was quitting blogging and would write only novels and poems. Alrawahi later told another blogger that he had lost hope that blogging could “make a difference.”
Nabhan Salim, manager of the independent organization Monitor of Human Rights in Oman, told CPJ that Alrawahi had shut down his blog and then returned to writing more than once. Alrawahi’s lawyer, Said Al-Zahmi, said the blogger would repeatedly shut down his social media accounts and blogs in order to avoid being accused of disturbing relations between Oman and UAE, according to news reports.
Alrawahi has bipolar disorder and attempted suicide six times while in detention, the rights group said. The judge ordered a psychological review for Alrawahi and adjourned the trial until November 9, 2015, when the medical review was completed, news reports said. At the November hearing, the judge referred Alrawahi to the Sheikh Khalifa Medical City hospital for examination, the Gulf Center for Human Rights reported. The next session of his trial was scheduled for December 7, 2015, according to news reports.
Alrawahi was being held at al-Wathba Prison in Abu Dhabi in late 2015, Amnesty International said.