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Qat smugglers could face death penalty in Oman

Date of publication: 5 November, 2016

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Smugglers of a herbal high to Oman may face the death penalty or life in prison if caught, Muscat has warned, following an increase in qat coming to the country.
Smugglers of qat may face the death penalty or life imprisonment in Oman if caught, local police force warned on Friday.

The Royal Oman Police said the sultanate has seen a dramatic rise in qat smuggling this year from war-torn Yemen, warranting the reminder of the severe consequences.

At least 58 individuals were caught smuggling the herbal high since the beginning of the year, police said.

Over 10,000 bundles of qat have been seized by local authorities.

"Using qat creates a health hazard and it is no less dangerous than any other drug which affects mental and physical health," the Times of Oman quoted Abulrahim Qassim al-Farsi, the director general of narcotics control within the police force, as saying.

"These types of poisons give the illusion that the user is more active and it is nothing more than a synthetic feeling and far from reality."

The chewing of qat, a narcotic leaf with amphetamine-like effects, is still common in Oman's neighbour Yemen as well as other countries around the Horn of Africa, where both the production of qat and its consumption are legal.

However qat-chewing was never as popular in Oman as it was in Yemen, although heroin addiction is also believed to be a problem in the sultanate.

Recent efforts by the Omani authorities to prosecute qat-smuggling highlights concerns over increased smuggling activities on the border.

In September, Reuters cited US and Iranian sources claiming that weapons were being funnelled through Oman into war-torn Yemen.

While qat smugglers caught in the sultanate face severe punishments, the option of paying a fine of OMR 50,000 [$130,000] is also available.

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