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Rights groups praise Oman pardon for online activists, protesters

International rights groups and others are hailing Oman's decision to pardon all activists jailed for offending the nation's ruler or joining protests.

The move by Oman's leader, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, runs counter to widening social media crackdowns by other Gulf Arab states.

Dozens of people have been charged in recent months across the Gulf for blogs, Twitter messages and other posts deemed insulting to rulers or threats to state security.

Amnesty International on Sunday called Oman's decision a positive step and urged authorities to further lift restrictions on freedom of expression. The Omani Lawyers Association also praised the blanket pardon announced last week.

The prisoners were expected to be freed beginning Sunday. No figures were given, but dozens have been jailed on Internet- or protest-linked charges since early 2011.

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