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Oman ruler pardons activists jailed for protests
July 24, 2013
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MUSCAT: Oman’s Sultan Qaboos has pardoned activists jailed for taking part in anti-government protests two years ago, media reported on Tuesday.

The official Omani News Agency said Sultan Qaboos Bin Said ordered the pardons to take effect on Tuesday for the prisoners.

Their sentences ranged from 30 months to five years.

Demonstrations erupted in parts of Oman in early 2011, following the outbreak of popular revolts in other Arab states.

But unlike in Tunisia, Egypt and Bahrain, the protests were focused on jobs and alleged corruption, rather than changing the government.

Oman responded to the protests with some reforms such as elections for local councils that have no direct powers but will serve in an advisery role.

Qaboos ordered the pardon to coincide with the anniversary of his accession to power in 1970 after he overthrew his father.

Those pardoned also included people convicted of blocking roads, obstructing police officers while doing their work and attacking government facilities, according to ONA.

“This pardon is another opportunity provided by the state to its citizens to remain loyal people who contribute to the building of their country, maintaining its achievements and being involved in blessed work and march to ensure progress, security and stability of the nation,” the agency said.

Along with the pardon, Qaboos ordered those dismissed from private and public jobs after the 2011 protests to be reinstated.

The Arabic-language Azaman newspaper also that some members of an espionage ring uncovered in 2011 were also pardoned and had gone home.

ONA said at the time that the spy ring was linked to the UAE and targeted Oman’s military and government.

The UAE has denied links to any such network but the case soured relations between the two neighbours.

Ties have since improved.

The Omani government sought to ease public discontent in February by announcing plans to limit the number of foreign workers and sharply raise the minimum wage for locals in a drive to increase employment of Omani citizens.

Qaboos had already pardoned some Omanis jailed for defaming the country’s ruler or taking part in protests in March.

Oman, which sits on the Strait of Hormuz through which some 40 per cent of the world’s sea-borne oil exports passes, has also pledged to create tens of thousands of public sector jobs.

Agencies
 

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