Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Oman jails 31 Islamists for up to 20 years - Peninsula On-line

MUSCAT: Oman’s state security court yesterday sentenced 31 Islamists accused of plotting to overthrow the government and membership of a banned organization to between one and 20 years in jail.

Defence lawyers had argued that their clients were innocent of the charges and had merely sought to promote the teachings of the sultanate’s majority Ibadi sect. Judge Hilal bin Hamad Busaidi said the defendants, all Omanis, could not appeal the verdict but could ask for a pardon from the state’s ruler H M Sultan Qaboos bin Said within 30 days.

It was the biggest trial in Oman since 1994 when members of a Sunni Islamist organisation were jailed on charges of seeking to topple the regime after Sultan Qaboos commuted their death sentences.

The 31 were sentenced for plotting to “overthrow the regime by force of arms and replace it with an imamate, by setting up a banned underground organisation”. The accused, who all appeared in court, were also convicted of conducting military training, arming members with weapons obtained illegally and holding recruitment sessions.

Six accused of being leaders of the group were sentenced to 20 years in jail. Twelve were sentenced to 10 years, another 12 to seven years, while the 31st, who was acquitted of seeking to overthrow the regime, received a one-year sentence for holding weapons without a license.

Sultan Qaboos must ratify the sentences and lawyers suggested they could be pardoned. The trial was the first of its kind to be open to a selected public. Relatives, reporters and members of Oman’s appointed state council and elected consultative council were at the hearing, which lasted just 20 minutes.



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