Oman appeals court upholds sentences over social media posts

MUSCAT Thu Dec 6, 2012 1:36pm GMT

MUSCAT (Reuters) - An Omani court of appeal has upheld jail sentences for six people over social media posts that a previous court ruled amounted to "slander" against the country's ruler, the state Oman News Agency has reported.

The defendants were each sentenced in July to jail terms of 12 to 18 months and fined 1,000 Omani rials ($2,600) for the postings on Twitter and Facebook.

The rulings were part of a crackdown on dissenters after Oman quelled its own version of Arab Spring protests last year.

Oman - which sits astride the Gulf sea lane through which much of the world's oil trade is shipped - has tried to placate protesters by creating tens of thousands of public sector jobs.

But perceived failures and delays in implementation of the promises, as well as the absence of a payment to the unemployed - who make up a quarter of all Omanis by official figures - fired renewed protests and some popular anger was directed against the once-sacrosanct figure of the sultan.

The country's public prosecutor has vowed to prosecute anyone who criticised the leader under Oman's information technology law. Those grounds were used in Monday's rulings as well as the original verdict in July.

(Writing by Mahmoud Habboush; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)