DUBAI - An Omani writer and a poet were among four people convicted of defamation over comments against the country's sultan and sentenced to jail sentences of up to one year, although they were freed pending bail and an appeal, their lawyer said.

Oman, a Western-allied, small oil exporter that flanks a major crude shipping route out of the Gulf, has detained more than 30 people in the past few weeks over protests that erupted after strikes at petroleum plants over pay and pension issues.

The walkouts were the biggest Oman has seen since a spate of protests last year against corruption and unemployment inspired by Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

An Omani activist told Reuters that author Hammoud Rashedi had been accused of holding up a sign with "certain sentences directed at Sultan Qaboos" during a peaceful demonstration last month, while poet Hamad al-Kharusi had published a poem referring to the veteran ruler on his Facebook page.

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