Oman sentences eight for 'incitement' against govt

Reuters , Wednesday 8 Aug 2012

Eight sentenced in Oman over internet posts critical of government after renewed protests and crackdown

A scene from a Omani protest in the industrial city of Sohar in February 2011, (Photo: Reuters).

An Omani court has sentenced eight people to a year in jail over Internet posts it called "incitement" against the government, a court official said on Wednesday, in a further move against unrest inspired by last year's Arab Spring revolts.

Protests this year in Oman - which fronts the Gulf sea lane through which much of the world's oil trade is shipped - has pointed to difficulties in implementing a strategy of defusing discontent by creating tens of thousands of public sector jobs.

Issued on Monday, the verdicts could still be appealed by the defendants after each paid a fine of 1,000 Omani rials ($2,600), said the court official, who requested anonymity.

"They have been convicted of abusive writing and incitement on the Internet and were also found guilty of slander and violation of the Information Technology Law," he said.

The official said the defendants criticised the government for perceived inefficiency in creating jobs and a clampdown on protests that recently flared anew after Oman quelled its own version of Arab Spring unrest last year.

Ten other people were sentenced to up to 18 months in jail last month over comments directed against the ruler, Sultan Qaboos, on social media websites and during protests in late May that grew out of strikes in the oil sector - which accounts for most state revenue.

Sultan Qaboos - in power for 42 years and now the longest-serving Arab head of state following the fall of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi last year - promised thousands of jobs and unemployment benefits in response to last year's disturbances.

Perceived failures and delays in making good on such promises were rallying cries in the recent protests, which saw anger directed against the once-sacrosanct figure of the sultan.

Oman's public prosecutor pledged to prosecute such statements under its information technology law, which formed the basis of the latest rulings as well as the earlier verdicts.

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