MUSCAT Omani riot police on Monday detained some 30 activists during a peaceful protest near police headquarters in Muscat to demand the release of prisoners and faster reforms, witnesses said.
Discontent has been growing in the small oil-producing Gulf Arab state over what activists said was the slow pace of reforms and lack of jobs since protests last year that were inspired by Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
Witnesses said activists with placards lined up a road opposite the main police headquarters in al-Qurum district. Riot police came out of the police station and surrounded the protesters, one witness told Reuters.
"They put them on a bus and took them away," Zaher al-Abri, a local journalist at the scene, told Reuters by telephone. "Some were handcuffed but most were not," he said, adding that seven women and 22 men had been taken away.
Omani officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
Activists said Monday's protest was the third since Saturday to press for prisoners' release, job creation and faster reforms. The previous two ended peacefully with police only threatening to deploy riot police, activists said.
Omanis say that living conditions have not improved since last year's protests, and demand a crackdown on corruption.
In the past two weeks at least 10 people have been arrested, including six who were taken on Friday night in what one source said was a police crackdown on dissent in the small U.S. ally.
The sultanate sits at one side of the Strait of Hormuz, where nearly two thirds of global seaborne crude exports pass.
Omanis said discontent has been on the rise in recent months with labor strikes taking place in various sectors, including oil, health and education, according to Omani media.
Activists said three people were detained last month when they visited a desert oil field to talk to oil workers on a strike. Authorities said the three had been suspected of incitement but they have since been released.
(Reporting Joseph Logan and Sami Aboudi in Dubai; Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)