x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Jailed Oman protesters have been on hunger strike since mid-December

A human rights group says 22 prisoners are on a hunger strike because they are not happy with the sentences handed out.

MUSCAT// Twenty-two jailed protesters have been on a hunger strike since mid-December, a human rights group said yesterday.

"The prisoners complained about the sentences and demanded release. While some conceded their guilt, others said they were not happy with the sentences handed out," said a statement from the Muscat-based National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

Oman was rocked by demonstrations from January to May last year, when protesters demanding economic and political reforms clashed with security forces. More than 50 protesters received jail terms from three to 18 months in September, when they were found guilty of "instigating riots and damaging private properties".

NHRC representatives met with 10 of the striking prisoners last week.

They did not release any information about the conditions on the prisoners. During the height of the protests in February, demonstrators torched a shopping mall, three government buildings and overturned vehicles in the industrial city of Sohar.

Qaboos bin Said, the Sultan of Oman, made concessions to the protesters.

This included hiking salaries, introducing a monthly 150 rial (Dh1,433) unemployment allowance and adding 35,000 government jobs.

He also granted legislative powers to the elected Majlis Al Shura Council, which previously only advised the government.