Viewing cable 05MUSCAT741
Title: SECOND DEMONSTRATION LEADS TO ARRESTS

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
05MUSCAT7412005-05-04 13:52:00 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 000741 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV SOCI PHUM PINS ASEC MU
SUBJECT: SECOND DEMONSTRATION LEADS TO ARRESTS 
 
REF: MUSCAT 716 
 
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SUMMARY 
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¶1. (SBU) A May 3 protest march that turned into a sit-in at a 
mosque was allegedly forcibly dispersed by police, reportedly 
leading to numerous arrests.  First-hand accounts cite the 
number of protesters between 200-500, while other unconfirmed 
sources claim the numbers were closer to a thousand or more. 
The demonstrators were calling for a pardon for 30 defendants 
sentenced on May 2 after being charged with belonging to an 
illegal organization and seeking to overthrow the government 
(a thirty-first defendant was found not guilty).  Internet 
message board contributors are calling for more 
demonstrations "throughout Oman" after evening prayers on 
Thursday, May 5, and after noon prayers on Friday, May 6, as 
well as for a motor procession through Muscat on May 6. 
(Note:  The call for the Friday demonstration and car 
procession were subsequently deleted from the message boards. 
 End note.)  Separately, the Foreign Ministry thanked the 
Ambassador for his statement to a local newspaper that 
praised the transparency of the defendants' trial while also 
expressing USG support for religious freedom, the right of 
association, and endorsing monitoring by human rights 
organizations.  End summary. 
 
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VERDICTS SPARK SECOND PROTEST 
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¶2. (SBU) On May 2, the State Security Court announced guilty 
verdicts for 30 defendants charged with belonging to an 
illegal organization and plotting to overthrow the government 
(reftel).  (Note:  A thirty-first defendant was found not 
guilty.)  In reaction to the verdicts and sentences, several 
hundred protesters gathered at the Said bin Taymur Mosque 
after evening prayers on May 3.  The protest march, taking a 
slightly different route than the procession on May 1, ran 
into a police barricade a short distance away (near the 
Radisson Hotel) that prohibited them from proceeding any 
further.  Ordered to disperse, many protesters returned to 
the mosque. 
 
¶3. (SBU) According to unconfirmed reports from sources at the 
scene, the situation deteriorated when protesters in the 
mosque engaged in civil disobedience by holding a sit-in. 
One shaykh continued to stir up protesters outside as he used 
a loud microphone to call for the Sultan's pardon of the 
defendants.  According to sources, police and some of the 
more moderate protesters attempted to defuse the situation by 
asking the protesters to come out.  When the demonstrators 
refused, police allegedly forcibly entered the mosque, 
striking some protesters (possibly including minors), and 
arrested over 200 demonstrators in the process.  Other 
sources, however, put the number of those arrested at less 
than 20, and denied all reports of any violence, by 
protesters or police.  Regional satellite news channel 
Al-Arabiya aired a report of the incident from their Omani 
correspondent on the scene who claimed that he himself had 
been struck by the police.  We have been unable to confirm 
independently, however, the number of persons who may have 
been detained by police, or precisely what methods the police 
may have used to quell the protest. 
 
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MORE PROTESTS TO COME? 
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¶4. (U) Contributors to the on-line message board Al-Sablah 
have alluded to further demonstrations.  They are calling for 
protests to take place in other towns throughout the 
Sultanate following maghreb (evening) prayers on Thursday, 
May 5, for nationwide protests after noon prayers on Friday, 
May 6, and for a motor procession in Muscat following noon 
prayers, also on Friday.  (Note:  The calls for Friday 
protests were subsequently removed from chatrooms.  End note.) 
 
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FOREIGN MINISTRY APPRECIATES AMBASSADOR'S STATEMENT 
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¶5. (SBU) In a May 4 meeting with visiting NEA/PI Director 
Alina Romanowski, MFA Under Secretary Sayyid Badr al-Busaidi 
underscored his happiness with the transparent and open 
manner with which the Omani government treated the 
high-profile trial of the 31 defendants.  "Publicizing trials 
is a new thing for us.  We are demonstrating that the law 
applies to everyone."  He thanked the Ambassador for his 
recent statement quoted in a special supplement to the May 3 
edition of the English-language daily Times of Oman focusing 
on the trial. 
 
¶6. (U) The full text of the Ambassador's statement is as 
follows: 
 
(Begin text) 
The Embassy of the United States is following with interest 
the case of the Omani citizens being tried in connection with 
the charges of belonging to an illegal organization and 
allegedly plotting to overthrow the government.  We applaud 
efforts by the Omani government to make public substantial 
portions of the trial and the case against the accused.  We 
believe such openness and transparency can reassure the 
public and foreign visitors alike that Oman respects the rule 
of law, including the rights enshrined in Chapter 3 of the 
Basic Law.  Permitting the monitoring of these cases by 
national and international legal and human rights 
organizations is another effective way of ensuring a fair and 
transparent process.  The government of the United States 
firmly believes in religious freedom, freedom of conscience 
and the right of association.  Such rights should never be 
abused, however, by persons seeking to violate legitimate 
rights of others by resorting to violence or the threat of 
violence. 
 
(End text.) 
 
(Note:  The British and German ambassadors issued, 
independently, similar statements.  End note.) 
 
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Comment 
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¶7. (SBU)  While nation-wide protests are unlikely, there 
could be localized manifestations in support of the jailed 
activists, particularly among the Ibadhi community.  Despite 
reports of possible police force being used at the May 3 
demonstration, we are pleased not only that the Times of Oman 
printed the Ambassador's statement calling for respect for 
freedom of religion and association, but that it was 
subsequently lauded by Sayyid Badr.  It is important to 
stress that both demonstrations have been peaceful, orderly, 
and closely managed by the police, and that there has been no 
evidence of outside influence or anti-American sentiment. 
BALTIMORE