Scores of people were arrested in January in connection with calls for political reform. Most were released without charge; 31 were tried and sentenced to prison terms but released under an amnesty. A death sentence imposed in 2004 for murder was commuted by the head of state.

Political arrests

Security forces arrested up to 100 people, including academics, religious leaders and others, in January in response to growing calls for political reform. Many of the arrests were carried out at night and computer equipment and documents were seized. Most of the detainees were released after several days or weeks in custody, but 31 of them were charged with threatening national security and tried in May before the State Security Court (SSC) in Muscat, the capital. All were convicted and sentenced to prison terms ranging from one to 20 years, but then released on 9 June under a royal pardon granted by the Sultan of Oman.

Other government critics who also called for political reform were arrested during the year, including two prisoners of conscience.

  • Taiba al-Mawali, a leading human rights activist and one of a number of women nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, was arrested in June soon after she had acted as an observer at the trial of the 31 defendants brought before the SSC in Muscat. In July, a Lower Court in Muscat sentenced her to 18 months' imprisonment in connection with SMS messages that she had sent through mobile phones and the Internet. The Court of Appeal cut her sentence to six months in August but she was still held at the end of the year.
  • Abdullah al-Riyami, a writer and activist, was arrested on 12 July and held incommunicado for one week before being released without charge. While detained, he was questioned before a judge for over four hours about articles in which he had criticized the government and research he had conducted into torture in police stations in Oman. When released, he was reportedly warned that he would be recalled by police if he persisted in criticizing the government.

Death penalty

In January, the Sultan of Oman commuted the death sentence imposed on US national Rebecca Thompson to 15 years' imprisonment. She had been convicted of murder in 2004.

Women's rights

Omani laws and practices continued to discriminate against women in a number of important respects, including personal status, employment and participation in public life. Domestic violence remained a concern.

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