Viewing cable 05MUSCAT743
Title: OMAN ONLINE: VERDICTS AND DEMONSTRATIONS

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
05MUSCAT7432005-05-04 15:23:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Muscat
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS MUSCAT 000743 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR NEA/ARPI, NEA/PPD, NEA/P, IIP/G/NEA 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: KPAO SOCI PGOV MU
SUBJECT: OMAN ONLINE: VERDICTS AND DEMONSTRATIONS 
 
REF: A. MUSCAT 698 
 
     ¶B. MUSCAT 676 
     ¶C. MUSCAT 618 
 
¶1. Summary:  The Omani Internet chat rooms "al-Sablah" and "al- 
Majarra" are the liveliest and most comprehensive Arabic-language 
fora for political and social discourse in the country, touching 
on issues and personalities rarely addressed in the conventional 
media.  While not totally free, nor wholly reflective of Omani 
public opinion, these popular sites nevertheless offer a 
worthwhile window into the hot topics and unvarnished views of 
the day.  This edition of Oman Online contains the following 
topics: 
 
-- The Verdict in the Detainee Trial 
-- Petitions to the Sultan 
-- Demonstrations in Support of those Convicted 
 
End summary. 
 
----------- 
The Verdict 
----------- 
 
¶2. On May 2, the State Security Court convicted 30 individuals 
(the thirty-first suspect was found not guilty) charged with 
establishing an illegal secret organization for the purpose of 
overthrowing the government to prison sentences ranging from one 
to twenty years.  Al-Sablah members have maintained a lively and 
candid commentary on the trial since the arrests were made 
(reftels), and -- predictably -- many forum members were 
dissatisfied with the outcome.  One writer captured the feelings 
of other forum members by stating, "The verdict was very harsh, 
and we do not believe that it was fair.  This was already 
cooked." 
 
-------------------- 
Calls For Amnesty... 
-------------------- 
 
¶3. The director of Al-Sablah, Said al-Rashdi, called on all forum 
members to join an amnesty petition addressed to Sultan Qaboos: 
"We are praying to the Almighty to guide you towards offering 
amnesty to these detained scholars and shaykhs."  Significant 
numbers of respondents signed on in support of such a pardon; one 
wrote, "We pray that our leader the Sultan will be merciful, and 
intervene to release the detainees for the sake of their children 
and families."  In a departure from the often-sarcastic tone of 
al-Sablah, these contributors were very emotional in their call. 
 
------------------------ 
... And Calls For Action 
------------------------ 
 
¶4. Not all forum members were content merely to ask for pardons. 
Some subscribers called for wide-ranging demonstrations in the 
major cities of Oman to protest the verdict.  "There should be 
peaceful marches all over the country so the government knows 
that we, the people of Oman, support the scholars and do not 
agree with the verdict," wrote one participant.  Although the 
Internet service provider apparently tried to block topics 
calling for demonstrations in both forums, the message was 
delivered to a large number of people. 
 
-------------------- 
Internet Allegations 
-------------------- 
 
¶5. Demonstrations took place May 1 and 3, with al-Sablah acting 
as a reporting outlet.  One correspondent noted, "More than 200 
people participated in the demonstration on Sunday, May 1, but 
unfortunately the police outnumbered them and stopped the march." 
A purportedly real-time report stated, "A huge demonstration is 
taking place right now at the Said Bin Taymur Mosque," while 
another confirmed that "the demonstrators have been blocked from 
proceeding any further, and have been forced to retreat to the 
mosque."  One apparent eyewitness claimed, "I saw the children of 
the detainees holding flags and flyers, and demanding amnesty 
from the Sultan."  Another reported, "The police tried to arrest 
one of the shaykhs but a couple of young people protected him." 
A few reports surfaced about possible arrests and violence, and 
many respondents blamed the police:  "The intention was to have a 
peaceful march in support of the detainees, but thanks to the 
police it turned into chaos." 
 
BALTIMORE