Hundreds of suspected members of an Islamist organization were arrested. Most were released but around 160, including possible prisoners of conscience, were sentenced to terms of imprisonment after an unfair trial. In June the Ministry of the Interior announced that representation at its Majlis al-Shura, Consultative Council, was to be increased from 59 to 80 members. The Council has no legislative powers and is not a decision-making body. Its members are appointed by the Head of State, Sultan Qaboos Bin Sa‘id. In May and June hundreds of people were arrested reportedly for setting up an illegal Islamist organization and distributing leaflets criticizing the authorities for hosting a conference attended by Israeli delegates. Those arrested included Omani, Jordanian and Egyptian nationals. Most of them were reported to be businessmen, university lecturers and civil servants. Many were released by the end of August, but around 160 remained held incommunicado in al-Ramis prison in Muscat, including four employees of Petroleum Development Oman, two Under-Secretaries in the Ministries of Agriculture and Commerce, a former ambassador to the USA, and a well-known Omani religious scholar, Salim al-Ghazali. His two brothers, Mohammad and Hamed, were reportedly held for several weeks before their release. Those still detained were tried before the State Security Court and in November the court pronounced judgment. All the defendants were found guilty: the sentences ranged from the death sentence to varying terms of imprisonment with a minimum of three years. The death sentences were reported to have been commuted to prison terms by the Head of State. The trial was apparently conducted in secret and there were fears that defendants may not have had access to lawyers of their own choosing. No further information was available as to the exact charges of which they were convicted, their sentences, or whether they had the right to appeal before a higher court against their convictions and sentences. At the end of the year they were imprisoned in al-Ramis prison. Sa‘id Salim ‘Ali, known as Abu Sakha, who had been arrested in 1993 following his return from studying in Kiev, Ukraine, reportedly remained in detention during the first half of the year. No further information was available. In March Amnesty International wrote to the Minister of the Interior seeking clarification of the legal situation of Sa‘id Salem ‘Ali and urging his release if he was held as a prisoner of conscience. In September Amnesty International wrote again to the Minister of the Interior requesting specific information about the hundreds of people arrested in May and June. In November the organization wrote to the Minister of Justice expressing concern about their trial. No response had been received by the end of the year.

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