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Oman court grants bail to 8 rights activists

The Omani Appeal Court on Sunday granted bail to eight out of 11 political protestors charged with "illegal gathering with the intention of provoking a riot" and "blocking the flow of traffic" under Oman's penal code. Omani authorities detained the men in June for participating in peaceful sit-ins [HRW report] in Muscat that sought the release of activists and demonstrators detained for allegedly inciting protest [JURIST report] and "defaming the Sultan" via social media. A Muscat lower court later convicted and sentenced the men to one year in prison and fines of 1,000 Omani Riyals (USD $2,600). After weeks of hunger strikes, the Omani Supreme Court agreed to hear the men's appeal and in March ordered retrial in eight of the cases. According to media sources, the trials of the other three protesters are still pending in the Supreme Court [Gulf News report], and release from the high-security prison may take several days. In addition, many fear that the men will be given fresh sentences upon retrial.

The Omani government has recently cracked down on pro-reform and human rights activists as well as political opponents. In June an Omani court began the trial [JURIST report] of protesters who have been accused of defamation and illegal assembly by opening with hearing the case against 15 protesters, four of whom have been charged with defamation and incitement to further protests and strikes in an oil factory and the remainder of whom have been charged with illegal assembly. The Omani authorities have detained more than 30 individuals who have been protesting against the government demanding political reform, promoting human rights and calling for the release of human rights defenders whom Omani authorities have detained. During the same month, the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) urged [JURIST report] the government of Oman to release all human rights defenders who have been detained solely because of their legitimate human rights work, drop all charges against them, ensure security of the protesters in detention and take measures to protect human rights defenders when pursuing legitimate human rights activities from any harassment. In June 2011 Oman's Misdemeanour Court of First Instance in Muscat sentenced [JURIST report] 13 protesters with to five years in prison for shutting down a government organization, blocking roads and assaulting government employees.

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