March 25, 2013 | By Jillian York

Oman's Sultan Qaboos Pardons Activists and Netizens

EFF is pleased to learn that Oman's monarch, Sultan Qaboos, has pardoned "all dissidents jailed for defaming the ruler or taking part in protests." According to the Reuters news agency, "His Majesty Sultan Qaboos has issued a royal pardon for those convicted of defamation, information technology crimes and unauthorized rallies."

Those "information technology crimes" included comments about the Sultan (who has ruled the Gulf state for 43 years) made on Facebook pages and blogs.

Last year, at least 50 activists were arrested for involvement in online and offline protests, with many sentenced to jail terms of up to 18 months. The country's public prosecution issued statements threatening to take legal action against anyone publishing "offensive writing" or "inciting" others to action in the media or on social networks.

While the pardon is a welcome move, the activists should never have been jailed for exercising their universal right to freedom of expression in the first place. We support the efforts of local activists in fighting for their right to speak and organize in Oman, one of 18 countries that have not ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

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