Kuwaiti man jailed for 2 years for "insulting" tweets

Tweets deemed offensive to Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah have resulted in a prolonged jail term for one Kuwaiti man

by The Commentator on 31 March 2013 12:10

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A Kuwaiti man has been sentenced to two years in prison for "insulting tweets" by Kuwait’s lower court. Hamad Al Khalidi, known as an "opposition tweeter" was given two years in jail on charges of insulting the Gulf state’s ruler, The Commentator has learned.

“Al Khalidi has been sentenced to two years in jail with immediate effect,” the director of the Kuwait Society for Human Rights, Mohammad Al Humaidi, said on his Twitter account. The story swiftly follows the news that a Palestinian man was sentenced to six months in prison for an insulting Facebook "like" directed at Palestinian Authority officials. 

Al Khalidi was charged in Kuwait with apparently writing remarks on his Twitter account deemed offensive to the Emir, Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah. While the verdict is said to be "not final", his jailing was immediate pending an appeals process.

Jasser Al Jadaei, Al Khalidi's lawyer, said the defendent will file an appeal later on Sunday and seek an early hearing in an attempt to overturn the verdict. 

Al Khalidi is one of dozens of opposition activists and former MPs who have either been sentenced to various jail terms or are on trial on similar charges in Kuwait, as an apparent crackdown on political opposition picks up pace.

Last week, Kuwait's appeals court increased the jail term of "opposition tweeter" Bader Al Rasheedi to five years, up from two, for calling for a coup and for "insulting the emir".

Al Rasheedi has been in jail since the 28th November 2012 after the lower court gave him a two-year term on charges that included spreading false news about the nation and insulting the ruler.

Many are calling the recent clamp-down a specific targeting of opposition social network users and activists, as the regime cracks down on the Islamist opposition. Officials said the government was taking measures to prevent another upsurge of violent unrest in wake of parliamentary elections in December which were boycotted by the opposition. The Interior Ministry is apparently taking a harder line on protests as the Information Ministry closes down opposition media outlets.

Although Kuwait has typically allowed more freedom of speech than some Gulf states, insulting the emir or criticising him in public is a crime against state security punishable by up to five years in jail.

The Kuwaiti opposition, which has recently been made up of Islamists as well as tribal leaders, has staged regular demonstrations in protest against an amendment last year of the electoral law and subsequent December elections. It has also demanded the dissolution of parliament and new elections.

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