Viewing cable 05MUSCAT1062
Title: DONTVISITOMAN.COM OUTRAGES OMANIS

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
05MUSCAT10622005-07-06 12:05:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Muscat
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MUSCAT 001062 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
DEPT FOR NEA, NEA/ARPI, CA/OCS/ACS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: CASC EIND SOCI PREL MU
SUBJECT: DONTVISITOMAN.COM OUTRAGES OMANIS 
 
REF: A. MUSCAT 553 
 
     ¶B. MUSCAT 789 
 
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Summary 
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¶1. (SBU) An AmCit arrested in March and deported in May for 
illegally collecting meteorites has recounted his trying 
legal experience in Oman on a provocative website: 
dontvisitoman.com.  The website has received widespread 
commentary from Omani citizens, who are stunned at its 
malicious characterization of the Sultanate and anxious to 
rebut its claims.  Oman's Internet service provider is 
blocking local access to the site while the Ministry of 
Tourism allegedly weighs its legal options.  End Summary. 
 
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Digging in the Dirt 
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¶2. (SBU) AmCit John Carl Blennert was arrested on March 30, 
2005, for illegally collecting meteor rocks as a member of a 
larger group of 7 Russians and 1 German.  The Embassy was 
formally notified of Blennert,s arrest on April 2, 2005, and 
Blennert was subsequently released April 3 after a prison 
visit from the Conoff. 
 
¶3. (SBU) While determining how to proceed with his case, 
Omani authorities retained Blennert's passport, preventing 
his departure from Oman for several weeks.  The Embassy 
contacted the police on numerous occasions in an attempt to 
resolve Mr. Blennert's case and expedite his departure. 
Blennert's admission to having collected rocks and minerals 
in his last trip to Oman in October 2004, however, may have 
further complicated the issue.  Informal contacts in the 
Omani government have suggested that the delay may also have 
been due to the fact that this was the first time the Omani 
government had tried to prosecute someone for illegally 
collecting rocks and minerals. 
 
¶4. (SBU) The Embassy received initial indications that 
Blennert would have to stand trial in Oman, but was pleased 
to learn that the Omani Public Prosecution Office ultimately 
decided to deport Blennert and his colleagues without a 
trial.  All nine of the individuals involved in this incident 
were deported in the early morning of May 10, 2005. 
 
¶5. (SBU) On the day of Blennert,s deportation, the Embassy 
received a statement about the case from the Omani Public 
Prosecution Office via diplomatic note.  The statement 
charged the defendants with the following crimes: theft, 
carrying out unauthorized and criminal exploration 
operations, and the unauthorized and criminal use of radio 
telecommunications.  However, due to the relative 
unimportance of the case, lack of substantial evidence, and 
concern regarding the potential harm to Oman's tourism 
industry, the government decided not to prosecute.  Upon 
deportation, however, all defendants were officially 
blacklisted from future entry into Oman and their materials 
(radios, laptops, etc.) remained in police custody. 
 
¶6. (SBU) The Embassy subsequently received a diplomatic note 
on May 30, 2005, requesting the Embassy's assistance in 
facilitating the return of meteorites collected by Blennert 
in his previous visit.  The note indicated that Blennert had 
made a promise to that effect before departing the Sultanate, 
though Blennert refuted that claim in a communication with 
our consular section. 
 
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Tourist Posts Tirade at DontVisitOman.com 
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¶7. (U) Although Blennert's case was resolved without charge, 
Blennert has criticized the Department of State on his 
website for rendering inadequate assistance, and the 
Government of Oman for theft and unlawful detention. 
Blennert's allegations are carried on his website, 
dontvisitoman.com.  News of the site has spread quickly 
within the Omani community, and the accusations of theft and 
hostility on the part of the Omani government have been met 
with stunned disbelief and indignation. 
 
¶8. (U) Starting June 25, contributors began posting responses 
to the website's allegations on Omani Internet message board 
"al-Sablah" (Omania.net).  The majority of responses 
expressed outrage at the "lies and nonsense" mentioned in the 
website.  While most members approved of the actions of the 
Royal Oman Police and Public Prosecutor regarding the arrest 
and subsequent release of Blennert and company, some even 
went so far as to praise Omantel for blocking access to the 
site.  On June 29, after racking up over 2500 visitors, the 
posting channel was closed by the site administrators, 
arguably so that fewer people would visit the site.  Some 
al-Sablah contributors, however, groused that blocking the 
website from Omanis makes no sense and, furthermore, prevents 
people from directly responding to the website's allegations. 
 Those Omanis who have been able to circumvent Omantel's 
block have ridiculed the website, attributing Blennert's 
tirade to an unhappy, perhaps "crazy," tourist. 
 
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COMMENT 
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¶9. (U) At a time when the Omani government is actively 
pursuing growth in the tourism industry and basking in the 
afterglow of Oman's hugely successful Folklife Festival 
participation in Washington, D.C., some Omanis are worried 
that Blennert's website rant may dissuade potential visitors 
and harm tourism development projects.  One contributor to 
al-Sablah mentioned that the Ministry of Tourism is aware of 
the website and may seek legal action against its webmaster 
host. 
BALTIMORE