Middle East

Kuwait opposition leader jailed for emir insult

Mussallam al-Barrak addresses the opposition protest in Kuwait City (15 October 2012)
Image caption Mussallam al-Barrak (right) was jailed for a speech he gave in October

A prominent Kuwaiti opposition leader has been jailed for five years for insulting the emir.

Mussallam al-Barrak, a former MP, had first been detained in October on suspicion of "undermining the status of the emir".

He had warned the Emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Sabah, in a speech that he would not be allowed to "take Kuwait into the abyss of autocracy".

Several former MPs and tweeters have been jailed for insulting the emir.

Kuwait has not witnessed the same scale of pro-democracy uprisings as in other Arab states, but there has been growing tension between former members of parliament and the government, which is dominated by the al-Sabah family.

'No longer afraid'

Last December, the opposition boycotted parliamentary elections in protest against a new electoral system which it said favoured pro-government candidates.

Turnout in the vote was low and since then there have been regular demonstrations.

Mr Barrak's lawyer, Abdullah al-Ahmad, told AFP news agency he will appeal Monday's decision.

"The ruling is null and void because it violated the legal procedures and for failing to provide the defence team with sufficient guarantees," he said. "We will appeal against the ruling in the appeals court."

The speech that Mr Barrak was convicted for came at an opposition demonstration outside parliament in Kuwait City's Erada Square in October. He had shocked many observers by publicly challenging the emir.

"We will not allow you, your highness, to take Kuwait into the abyss of autocracy," he said. "We no longer fear your prisons and your riot batons."

In February, five opposition activists were acquitted after being charged for insulting the emir on Twitter.

But other activists - including Mr Barrak and three former opposition MPs - have been convicted on the same charges, and one of the acquitted tweeters - Rashid al-Enzi - was sentenced to two years in jail in January in a different case.

Last week, Kuwaiti officials began considering a media law that reports say could bring fines of about US $1 million for insulting the ruling family.

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