Rights group accuses Oman of protest crackdown

DUBAI Wed Jun 13, 2012 2:14pm EDT

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Omani authorities have carried out a campaign of arrests targeting political activists and peaceful demonstrators to punish criticism of delayed political reforms, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

Oman, an oil-producing country with close ties to the United States and Britain, last year saw protesters demanding jobs and housing take to the streets following uprisings that toppled the rulers of Tunisia and Egypt.

The government promised new public sector jobs and payments to the unemployed to defuse anger, which flared again last month in work stoppages at oil facilities.

Activists who visited striking workers were among about 30 people arrested in the last two weeks, including people protesting those initial detentions, Human Rights Watch said.

"Omani activists are speaking out about broken promises for government reform," HRW's deputy Middle East director Joe Stork said in a statement.

He urged the government to release all the activists and halt what he called a campaign of intimidation.

No comment from the Oman government was immediately available.

At least 22 people were arrested outside a Muscat police station on Monday during a peaceful protest calling for the release of activists who had criticized the government's response to the demands.

Activists say the detainees are being denied access to lawyers and may face broadly defined charges of threatening state security.

(Writing by Joseph Logan; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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