Oman sentences 55 protesters to short prison terms

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 28, 2011 6:48 AM
Oman sentences 55 protesters to short prison terms

By Saleh al-Shaibany

MUSCAT (Reuters) - A court in Oman sentenced 55 people to prison terms ranging from one month to one year on Tuesday for taking part in protests demanding jobs, the public prosecutor said.

The Gulf Arab state was rocked by months of protests starting in February, inspired by pro-democracy revolts that toppled long-serving rulers in Egypt and Tunisia. The Omani protests focused on jobs, higher wages and an end to corruption.

"The 55 protesters were accused of offences including robbery, unlawful gathering and vandalizing government departments in the Jaalan Bani Bu Ali," the public prosecutor said in a statement, referring to a town in eastern Oman.

Most of the sentences ranged from one month to three months in jail, with only one person receiving a year's sentence, the statement said.

The protesters were among hundreds arrested between March and May, when the demonstrations stopped after two people died and more than 100 were injured in clashes with security forces. Most of those detained were later pardoned.

The protest by about 100 youths in Jaalan Bani Bu Ali turned violent in May, with demonstrators chanting: "Where are the jobs?" and breaking into businesses and government buildings. A total of 80 people were arrested, but 25 had been released.

Sultan Qaboos bin Said, a U.S. ally who has ruled Oman for 40 years, promised a $2.6 billion spending package in April after the protests. Many protesters were unsatisfied with the government response, saying promised changes were partial or too slow to be implemented.

(Reporting by Saleh al-Shaibany, Editing by Mark Trevelyan)