Oman court frees eight activists on bail: lawyer

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 18, 2013 6:17 AM

MUSCAT (Reuters) - Oman's appeal court has freed on bail eight out of 11 jailed demonstrators pending a retrial ordered by the Supreme Court after they staged a hunger strike against their imprisonment, their lawyer said on Monday.

The men, convicted of forming an illegal gathering, were jailed last year in a security crackdown after protests in the Gulf Arab sultanate inspired by Arab uprisings elsewhere.

They were sentenced to 18 months in prison after being detained at protests over unemployment and corruption.

"The supreme court has ordered the appeal court to release on bail the eight activists until a new trial is announced. They are out today," Khalifa al-Hinai, their lawyer, told Reuters.

Those freed paid bail of 200 rials ($520) while the three still in prison were awaiting the Supreme Court's orders, Hinai said, adding that no date had been set for the retrial.

Oman's Supreme Court on March 4 ordered a retrial after the group went on hunger strike for several days in February to press their case that their imprisonment was unlawful.

A higher court had earlier rejected their requests for an appeal.

Oman, which sits on the Strait of Hormuz through which some 40 percent of the world's sea-borne oil exports passes, has sought to placate demonstrators by pledging to create tens of thousands of public sector jobs.

But delays in implementing the promises have kept the protests simmering, and some popular anger has been directed against the once-sacrosanct figure of the sultan.

(Reporting by Saleh Al-Shaibany; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Alistair Lyon)