What a horrible story but thank God a happy ending.
Mike, you probably don't remember me, but you sold me my first meteorite - a
Glad everything turned out OK and that you're around to enjoy life and
introduce other people to collecting meteorites.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Ed Deckert" <edeck...@triad.rr.com>
To: "Michael Farmer" <m...@meteoriteguy.com>;
Sent: Monday, March 14, 2011 12:16 AM
Subject: Re: [meteorite-list] Oman prison saga
First of all, welcome home. After reading your horror story, all that I
can say is that it was a miracle for both of you to have survived this
ordeal. Granted, you had military training to fall-back on, but still, you
are most fortunate to have literally survived "life in hell" to relate
your story. While I have never met either of you, I am personally relieved
that you and Robert made it back home.
Best Regards, and again, welcome home,
----- Original Message -----
From: "Michael Farmer" <m...@meteoriteguy.com>
Sent: Sunday, March 13, 2011 11:36 PM
Subject: [meteorite-list] Oman prison saga
90% of the meteorite list is interested in the Oman meteorite saga that
Robert Ward and Michael Farmer went through from our arrest in early
January until our release ordered on March 7th 2011.
This is my story, Robert can tell his, as it is a little different as we
were separated, interrogated, and housed apart for more than half of the
On December 31st we headed for Oman, my 20th meteorite hunting expedition
there. I have studied the law there since the arrest of the Russian and
American hunters back in 2005. There is no law against meteorite hunting
in Oman, those who asked why we keep doing it, that is why. It is legal.
After months of meeting with lawyers, looking at Oman law, I think we
know what we are talking about.
We had a very successful trip, I found 35 meteorites, 3 pieces of the
Dhofar 1180 Lunar, more than 100 grams, and some other nice things. On
the last day we headed out of the desert and towards Dubai. At 1 PM on 13
January we arrived at a police roadblock in Adam, nothing out of the
norm, until they rushed my car with M16's and they had heavy belt-fed
guns on their trucks. They forced us out of our cars and ripped them
apart of course, finding the meteorites immediately. We were taken to the
Adam police station and interrogated for 10 hours. The Wali (governor) of
the area arrived and was very upset at our confinement, he kept
apologizing to us and saying he did not understand why we were being
arrested and kept calling Muscat to try and get us released, he was angry
at tourists being detained in his district. He then informed that orders
from much higher in the government came in that we were to be taken to
Muscat and it was out of his hands. The
roadblock was for us, they had intel that we were coming. I have intel on
who did it......
We were driven to Muscat in shackles, arriving at midnight, taken to an
interrogation center in Qurum. Stripped, put into separate rooms, and
never saw each other again for the next 25 days except when the embassy
came, our lawyers came, or we were taken to the hospital a couple of
Qurum Criminal Investigation Division is little more than a torture
chamber, we heard many times people being beaten, and dragged around.
I was interrogated in a conference room after more than 72 hours without
sleep. We were kept in small rooms, 9 x 9 x 12 ft, with small pad on the
floor and two blankets, horribly filthy, crawling with roaches, and
things on the floors and walls which I decline to try to describe. There
were 4 rooms, Robert and I in two, and other people in the others, we
could hear them crying or screaming sometimes.
I tried to speak to Robert a couple of times just to see if he was there,
and he would yell he was, then the police would come and threaten me not
to speak again, this went on for 25 days and nights, 24 hours a day in
that room, cold, a small light on 24/7 you never knew the time of day
except when food would come.
It was a nightmare that never seemed to end. I was close to losing it,
never did, but my military training kicked in and helped with that.
It was more than 48 hours since our arrest that I was interrogated,
forced to sign a statement of guilt, then driven to a prosecutor's office
at midnight on the 15th of Jan. No phone calls in that time, no chance to
see lawyer or embassy despite endless pleas. I was charged with various
crimes again with no chance to see lawyer beforehand. I begged the
prosecutor for a call and he refused, then thankfully after he sent me
out into a waiting room, another person handed me a cell phone quietly so
I called my wife and in 20 seconds told her I was in jail in Muscat, and
to call for help to the embassy,.
It took a week for the embassy to find us. Oman violated many laws, they
are required to provide lawyer before charges are filed, and contact
embassy within 24 hours, neither done.
After that, the endless days passed in hell, the toilet a hole in the
ground and I will leave the rest to your imagination.
We went to trial on 6 Feb, a 15 minute joke in Arabic with one question
asked by the judge, who then sentenced us to 6 months in prison and a
$250 fine for illegal mining operations.
We were sent the next day to the Sumail central prison.
Once we arrived at the prison, Robert and I were placed together in a
room, for the first time we could talk at will, see the sky and see other
people. We were in a brand new American made ultra-max type prison. It
was quite nice if you can call prison nice. Clean, new, but full. Usually
around 200 people in our cell block. Taliban types, drug smugglers from
Iran and Pakistan, drunks from India, car thieves from Oman etc.
We were the only two westerners in a prison of thousands, so they worked
hard to keep up safe, the other prisoners were told they would suffer
greatly if they laid a finger on us.
After two weeks there, the prison changed, when the political situation
in Oman turned ugly, rioting, fires, deaths etc all happened in Oman,
even though the news was blacked out. Special forces were brought in as
some of the other cell blocks rioted and all hell broke loose. We were
then scared for our lives. We were also nearly starved to death. I lost
nearly 40 lbs just by laying in bed, the food was less than my cat eats
in a day. Horrible crap, watery Dal from India, some dry rice, Arabic
flatbread, goop of all sorts, some form of meat that would be about the
size of your thumb for lunch. A prisoner carved me a spoon out of a
toilet cleaner chemical container, I have it here.
We saw people beaten, dragged away in shackles never to be seen again by
us, sick people refused medicine, diabetics refused shots and very sick.
We were treated well, which was sad that as Americans we were immediately
taken to the doctor when we were sick, others dragged back to bed in
horrible pain, no need for a doctor for them..............
Then came last week, our appeal in Nizwa. A different type of trial with
3 judges, and we were actually allowed to speak. I pled not guilty to all
charges, and the judges asked why. I was accused of illegal mining, I
asked what mining equipment I had been captured with, a phone, a sat
phone, a camera, a GPS, Ipad and Ipod. I told the court none of these
things can mine, nor find meteorites, the judges agreed. The prosecutor
We were also charged with violating Cultural Heritage laws, taking
artifacts of more than 60 years old. I told the court that a meteorite is
not an artifact, and when asked how old it was, I said it was unknown.
The prosecutor said it was old, I asked what evidence he had to prove
that, again the judges conferred and nodded their agreement that no
evidence was provided to prove age one way or another than since it is
not man made, that could not even be guessed.
Robert also spoke at length, then our lawyer fought very hard back and
forth with the prosecutor and judges for an hour or so over every aspect
of Omani law, then the judges left the room, came back 5 minutes later,
looked at Robert and I and said in Arabic "Hallas" which means "finished"
and then in perfect English, "You are released from prison". They smiled
at us on their way out of the courtroom.
Robert and I looked at each other in shock, then the policeman said we
were free to go. We hugged then were taken back to the prison as we had
to sign out and get our things. The last night in prison was a real party
with all the friends we made there.
The next day we were taken back to Muscat as the Embassy and my wife made
travel arrangements for us to go home. A very happy day for us. We flew
out at midnight on the 8th of March.
There is no law against meteorite hunting in Oman. They might not like
it, but Cultural Heritage does not apply. There are specific items
listed, not meteorites. The mining law does not apply, 7 articles are
very specific about mining, stones on the surface do not apply.
The word meteorite does not exist in their laws, many other stones are
specifically named as forbidden from removal, meteorites are not among
We committed no crime, that being said, it doesn't change the fact that
we spent two months in hell.
We were deported and can not return to Oman.
I have been to Oman enough times anyway, I have nearly a thousand
meteorites from there, all mine legally.
There is a 3 month statute of limitations on any theft crime, the
prosecutor told us that any stone taken more than 3 months before is ours
to keep as any claim by Oman expires 3 months after it was found.
All meteorites from Oman are legal, regardless of what Beda Hoffmann and
the Omani professor says, the law is clear. They don't like it, well then
I say change the law.
But that does not change the fact that they will arrest you, deprive you
of even your rights guaranteed under Omani law, and make you suffer
greatly if you are caught there. Justice in Oman is a joke.
It was worth the time though, we have had adventures there that money
can't buy. Those of you who have never taken a risk can not understand
that those of us who gather these stones that fill museums and
collections around the world, do so at risk to life and limb. Those who
are unwilling to risk usually gain little.
Thanks for all the support from those who tried to help me and my wife
during a very frightening and difficult time, and to those who were happy
at our suffering, we made it through as men, I am stronger, wiser, and a
happier person now. When your time of need comes, may the favor be
repaid, I am a strong believer in Karma.
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