Gulf | Oman

Oman’s Qaboos pardons activists

Lawyers welcome decision, with prisoners expected to be released in Friday

  • By Sunil K. Vaidya Bureau Chief
  • Published: 20:02 March 21, 2013
  • Gulf News

Muscat: Sultan Qaboos Bin Saeed has pardoned all activists and issued a royal decree on Thursday ordering the release of those imprisoned for insulting the Sultan and violating country’s cyber laws.

The order states that those still in prison should be released by Friday.

Activists and lawyers welcomed the decision and expressed happiness.

“This is not for the first time that His Majesty has pardoned activists and that shows his magnanimity as a person and his Royal wisdom,” leading lawyer for the activists and former judge, Khalifa Al Hinai, told Gulf News, adding that he was extremely pleased with the news.

Yaqoub Al Harthi, one of the lawyers for the activists, also expressed his happiness at the news. “This is the best news.”

“I am very happy with His Majesty’s decision to pardon all activists,” Khalfan Al Badwawi, who was charged with insulting Sultan Qaboos and violating the cyber laws, told Gulf News on Thursday.

Mother’s Day gift

Habiba Al Hinai, an independent human rights activist in Oman, told Gulf News that she was very pleased with the pardon on Mother’s Day that would unite all sons with the mother on Friday.

“On one hand I am happy for those pardoned in recent cases but would have loved if those naïve and unknown protesters from Sohar also would have got the pardon,” she felt.

She said that the mothers of those sent to jail for 2011 protests in Sohar would be disappointed that their sons were not included in the pardon.

“They started the whole protests and literati joined them, they asked for jobs and better pay, which have been given, but they are still serving sentences,” she said, and hoped that soon they would also get pardon.

About 49 people were tried in the court for insulting the Sultan and violating the country’s cyber laws or for wrongful gathering at a public place. Some faced both the charges.

The 11 activists facing charges for wrongful gathering were sentenced to six months in jail and 600 Omani riyals fine, which was later upheld by the Appeal Court.

However, on challenging the order, the Supreme Court had ordered retrial in the case of eight and were released last week from high-security Central Prison in Sumayil.

Some bloggers were sentenced to one year to 18 months in jail for insulting the Sultan and violating the country’s cyber laws.

Earlier last month about 23 activists had resorted to hunger strike to push for speedy trials in Appeal Court as well as quick response to appeal by 11 in the Supreme Court against the verdict of Appeal Court in the case of wrongful gathering.

The 11 were released on bail last week after Appeal Court started the retrial.

However, the activists heaved a sigh relief with the Royal Pardon on Thursday.

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