Hilal Al Alawi (centre) with relatives after his release from maximum security Samayil prison. courtesy Ali Hilal Al Maqbali

Muscat: Sultan Qaboos Bin Saeed on Monday night pardoned 14 protesters serving prison terms ranging from 30 months to five years for their role in 2011 protests in Oman’s northern industrial port town of Sohar, about 230km north of Muscat.

The Sultan had granted amnesty to another 215 prisoners on Sunday, but the list did not include the 14 Sohar protesters. Speculation was rife for some time about a pardon for the remaining 14 protesters but relatives of the imprisoned Batinah residents were disappointed when their names were not included in the amnesty.

Seven of those pardoned in the new round of amnesty were convicted to five years for their role in riot cases, preventing authorities from carrying out their duties by using violence, causing public inconvenience, verbal insult to public servants, blocking traffic, setting fire to governmental institutions, and vandalising public property. The other seven were serving 30-month prison terms for making explosives for alleged terrorist activities.

The pardon on Monday was extended to those not included in the earlier amnesty granted in March for activists, either serving a prison term or facing charges.

A report carried by the government-owned Oman News Agency (ONA) stated that the pardon given to the 14 protesters was another opportunity provided by the state to its citizens to remain loyal.

The Omani leader also ordered that all those pardoned should be reinstated in their jobs in the public or private sector.

“This is very good news and we are all extremely happy,” Hamdan Al Alawi, whose younger brother Khalid Al Alawi is among the 14 pardoned, told Gulf News over telephone while travelling to Samayil, about 90km northwest of Muscat.

“We are on our way to Samayil to receive my brother and others when they are released in a few hours today,” he enthused.