Oman jails 12 more protesters, bringing total to 80


An Omani court jailed 12 protesters from the coastal city of Sohar for up to three and a half years, a local paper said yesterday, bringing the total number of people sentenced for taking part in the unrest to 80.

The usually tranquil Gulf Arab sultanate was hit by months of protests in February, following uprisings that toppled rulers in Egypt and Tunisia. Omanis, however, focussed their demands on higher wages, more jobs and an end to graft rather than a change of government.

Security forces in May broke up a sit-in that had lasted for months in Sohar, an industrial city that was the epicentre of demonstrations in Oman. Police cleared road blocks and arrested hundreds on charges of vandalism, though most were pardoned.

The court sentenced two of the protesters to three and half years in jail for “making explosives and throwing them at security forces” the Times of Oman said. Five others were sentenced to two and half years and the rest to one year.

Last month the public prosecutor said 13 protesters were given prison sentences of up to five years for protesting in Sohar. A further 55 people were jailed for up to a year for demonstrating in the eastern town of Jaalan Bani Bu Ali.

Oman, a small non-OPEC oil producer, is poorer than its hydrocarbon-rich Gulf neighbours, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The regional Gulf Cooperation Council, wary of unrest in its poorer members Oman and Bahrain, vowed to give each country aid packages of US$10 billion (6.2 billion pounds) each.

Sultan Qaboos bin Said, a U.S. ally who has ruled Oman for 40 years, has promised a US$2.6 billion spending package and the government has said it will create 50,000 public sector jobs to placate Omanis.

Protests continued despite the promised reforms, with many complaining the changes had not been implemented, especially job creation. Protests have ebbed since May when police cleared out remaining protest camps in capital Muscat and the southern resort town of Salalah.