Up to 139 political prisoners, including possible prisoners of conscience, were released in an amnesty in November. All were serving lengthy prison sentences imposed after unfair trials in 1994. New information was received suggesting that some of them had been tortured or ill-treated following arrest. In April Sultan Qaboos Bin Sa‘id issued a decree regulating conditions of residence in Oman for foreign nationals, which included provisions on the right to political asylum. This appeared to be the first time political asylum had been incorporated into Oman's legislation. Up to 139 political prisoners, including possible prisoners of conscience, were released in November following an offi-cial amnesty on the 25th anniversary of Oman's national day. All had been serving long prison sentences in al-Ramis prison in Muscat. They were among around 160 prisoners sentenced after unfair trials in November 1994 (see Amnesty International Report 1995) accused of having links with an illegal Islamist organization. They included Salim al-Ghazali, a religious scholar, and ‘Abd al-Qadir ‘Ali ‘Umar Ba‘Umar, a director of education planning in Dhofar, who were each serving a 20-year sentence. They had reportedly been convicted on charges which included "sedition", "threats to the unity of society" and "use of Islam for destructive ends", after a trial which fell far short of international standards for fair trial. The court was apparently composed mainly of members of the government. Trial hearings were held in camera and the defendants were not allowed any legal assistance. There were reports that the evidence against them consisted mainly of confessions obtained under duress. None of the defendants were apparently allowed to appeal against their convictions and sentences to a higher tribunal. New information came to light that many of those released had been subjected to torture or ill-treatment following their arrest in May and June 1994 and during interrogation while held in incommunicado pre-trial detention. Some detainees were allegedly forced to stand in the heat of the sun for lengthy periods, while others were said to have been stripped naked during their interrogation. Amnesty International received no response from the government to its request for information about the arrest and trial of political prisoners in 1994 (see Amnesty International Report 1995). Following the release of political prisoners in November, the organization wrote to the government welcoming this positive move and seeking details about the terms of the amnesty.

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