Middle East

Pardon for those convicted of insulting Kuwaiti emir

Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Sabah
Image caption The emir announced the decision on Kuwaiti TV

The emir of Kuwait Sabah al-Sabah has announced a pardon for those convicted of insulting him, on the occasion of the last 10 days of Ramadan.

In recent months there has been a clampdown on criticism of the emir, with activists and MPs being charged with insulting him.

Some of the criticism was prompted by an electoral law issued by decree by the emir last October.

The emir is described as "immune and inviolable" in the constitution.

"On the occasion of the last 10 days of Ramadan, I am pleased to grant an amnesty to all those convicted of offending the emir," he announced during a speech on Kuwaiti TV.

It is customary for rulers in the region to issue pardons for convicts during the Muslim holy month.

In May, an appeals court overturned a five-year sentence for prominent opposition figure Mussallam al-Barrak who was convicted of "undermining" the emir.

However, his case is still being considered and his lawyer Thamer al-Jadaei said on Twitter that the pardon would not affect him as it was only for those whose cases had reached a final verdict.

Even though Kuwait's parliament has more powers than most in the Gulf, the emir has the final say in matters of state.

He also chooses the prime minister, who in turn picks a cabinet, with members of the the al-Sabah family occupying the top posts.

Last week saw Kuwait stage its second parliamentary vote in less than a year under the controversial election law.

Liberal and tribal groupings emerged as the main winners, at the expense of MPs representing Shia Muslims, who make up 30% of Kuwait's population.

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