Kuwait

Kuwait upholds sentence against opposition leader

Kuwait's Supreme Court on May 18 upheld the two-year prison sentence against activist Musallam al-Barrack for insulting Kuwait's ruler. Al-Barrack, a former lawmaker, was originally sentenced to five years in prison, but that sentence was later shortened on appeal to two years. The case against al-Barrack began after he gave a speech in October 2012 in which he urged Kuwait's ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah not to "drag the country into a dark abyss" while charging that Kuwait risked becoming an autocratic state under new electoral laws. In March 2013 a protest in Kuwait City consisting of hundreds of al-Barrack's supporters turned violent as it marched toward the parliament building. Police used batons against the protesters and arrested at least a dozen. Al-Barrack was also arrested in 2014 after he revealed documents showing large sums of illegal financial transfers made to senior officials, including judges. After his arrest, more violent protests ensued. Al-Barrack's lawyer stated that his client will surrender to authorities once court paperwork is complete.

Kuwait: court upholds 10-year term for tweeting

Kuwait's Supreme Court on July 12 upheld a 10-year jail sentence for a man accused of posting Tweets that insulted the Prophet Mohammed and the Sunni Muslim rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Hamad al-Naqi, a 24-year-old member of Kuwait's Shiite minority, was also found guilty of spreading false news that undermined Kuwait's image abroad. The Supreme Court's decision is final and can only be commuted by the Kuwaiti Emir. An appeals court affirmed al-Naqi's sentence in October. The result drew criticism from Human Rights Watch (HRW), which condemned the decision as a "violat[ion of] international standards on freedom of expression." He has been in prison since his arrest in March 2012, and was originally sentenced in June 2012. Al-Naqi has maintained his innocence, arguing that his Twitter account was hacked.

Top Kuwait court jails activist over Twitter posts

Kuwait's Supreme Court on June 15 upheld the two-year jail sentence of an opposition online activist for writing tweets found to be offensive to the country's Emir. After the ruling, activist Hejab al-Hajeri said on his Twitter account that his "determination is bigger than their jail." Al-Hajeri, a law student in his early 20s, was sentenced by the emirate's lower court last April after it found that comments he made on his Twitter account were critical of the emir, Shaikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah. The appeals court upheld the sentence six months later. Al-Hajeri has been out on bail, but now must serve the jail term, as the high court's verdicts are final. Criticizing the emir is illegal in Kuwait, and carries a jail term of up to five years.

Kuwait court acquits politicians of insulting leader

An appeals court in Kuwait on July 22 overturned the criminal convictions of three former members of parliament for criticizing the Emir, the nation's leader. The Kuwait Society for Human Rights helped break the story internationally via Twitter, when its director posted a short statement regarding the acquittal. The three men were convicted in February of insulting Emir Shaikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah at a protest in October. As members of parliament, they initially spoke out against new election laws and several other issues dealing with flawed civil procedure. The same flaws they addressed later led to the dissolution of the parliament. The Kuwait government has not yet indicated if it will choose to appeal this decision to the supreme court.

Kuwait woman sentenced to 11 years for tweeting

A criminal court in Kuwait on June 10 sentenced a woman to 11 years in prison for remarks she made on Twitter. Huda al-Ajmi was found guilty of three violations, including insulting the nation's ruler, Emir Shaikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, calling to overthrow the government and misusing her mobile phone. The 11-year prison term is the harshest sentence yet given to an online activist in Kuwait and will become final if it is not overturned when contested in the court of appeals and cassation court. Huda al-Ajmi, who denies the charges, is not a well-known activist and is not known to have participated in opposition protests.

Riots rock Jordan, protests shake Kuwait

Angry protests exploded throughout Jordan on the night of Nov. 13, after the government announced an increase in fuel prices. Demonstrators burned tires, smashed traffic lights and blocked roads in several cities, as riot police responded with tear gas.  In Dhiban, a city of 15,000 south of the capital, Amman, protesters burned pictures of King Abdullah II—defying laws imposing a prison term for criticizing the king. In Salt, which has been a focus of popular discontent, protesters destroyed two cars outside the prime minister’s home, which was empty. And in Amman, thousands filled the circle outside the Interior Ministry near midnight, chanting, "Revolution, revolution," and "The people want the fall of the regime"—slogans made famous in Egypt and Tunisia, where the Arab Spring began. The fuel price hike is part of an effort to close the country's growing budget deficit and secure a $2 billion IMF loan. (RIA-Novosti, Nov. 14; NYT, Nov. 13)

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