Middle East

Oman editors jailed for 'insulting' justice minister

Protests in Muscat on 7 March 2010 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Oman's ruling Sultan Qaboos reshuffled his cabinet in March after protests against corruption.

A court in Oman has jailed two senior journalists for five months for insulting the justice minister.

The court also ordered the closure of Ibrahim al-Maamary Yussuf and al-Haj's newspaper, Azzaman, for one month.

The newspaper had published articles alleging corruption inside the justice ministry.

The case stirred complaints about media clampdowns in the Gulf Arab nation, which faced small but significant pro-reform protests earlier this year.

An Omani official, Haron Saeed, was also sentenced to five months in jail in the same case.

All three were found guilty of "insulting" Justice Minister Mohamed al-Hanai and his under secretary of state by accusing them of "fraud, deception and prevarications" in an article published on 14 May.

Defence lawyer Ahmed al-Ajmi said he had succeeded in having the three freed on bail and the order closing the newspaper suspended, until an appeal against the verdicts on 15 October.

'Deep concern'

An editorial source at the newspaper confirmed that the daily would be on the news stands on Thursday and every day while awaiting the appeal verdict.

Paris-based watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in August, that it had written to Oman's ruler, Sultan Qaboos, "expressing deep concern" at the trial.

The normally peaceful sultanate was caught up earlier this year in the protests sweeping the Arab world.

Demonstrators took to the streets in late February and early March to demand improved living conditions.

They insisted their protests were aimed at "corrupt" officials and not at the sultan, who has ruled for 40 years.

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