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Sat 28 May 2011 04:12 PM

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Trial of Oman protesters will start on June 1

Court case of 27 protesters accused of rioting during demonstrations will start next week

Trial of Oman protesters will start on June 1
Protester generic

The trial of 27 protesters
accused of rioting during violent demonstrations in Oman will
start next Wednesday, a court official said.

Protests in Oman began in February, inspired by
pro-democracy revolts that toppled the rulers of Egypt and
Tunisia before spreading to Gulf Arab region.

In Oman, where rallies have been on a relatively small
scale, demands have focused more on higher wages, jobs and an
end to graft.

"The lawyers of the accused asked for the trial to be
postponed as not enough witnesses from the defence turned up at
the trial on May 23 and the court agreed to a new a date of June
1," a court official, who did not want to be named because he
was not authorised to speak to the press, told Reuters on
Saturday.

The 27 were arrested in the industrial city of Sohar in
March and April on charges of rioting and vandalism, including
torching of a supermarket, a police station and two government
buildings and damaging cars.

Sohar is about 250 km (155 miles) from the capital Muscat.

Rights group Amnesty International has urged Oman to charge
or release the protesters.

"The authorities in Oman must immediately provide details on
the whereabouts of all protesters being held and either charge
them with a recognizable criminal offence or release them," said
Malcolm Smart, a regional director at Amnesty.

"If they are being detained solely for participating in a
peaceful public protest they should be released immediately and
unconditionally," Smart said in a statement earlier this month.

Gulf Arab oil producers, keen to prevent popular uprisings
from taking hold, launched a $20 billion aid package for Bahrain
and Oman. Sultan Qaboos bin Said, a US ally who has ruled Oman
for 40 years, promised a $2.6 billion spending package in April.

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