SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) An appeals court in Kuwait has freed on bail an opposition leader at the centre of a political standoff, delaying the final verdict to an unspecified later date.
Mussallam al-Barrak, who has so far evaded arrest, was sentenced to five years in jail for insulting the the emir of the Gulf state.
Al Jazeera's Jamal Elshayyal, reporting from Kuwait City, said that the delay is "probably the best situation" that the government could have opted for.
"On one hand, it appeases the opposition supporters, many of whom had threatened to stage large scale demonstrations if Barrak was put behind bars," said Elshayyal.
"On the other hand, it may change the threat of sending him to jail that would be a cloud hanging over his head - a very valuable card for the government to use in its negotiations if continued political standoffs continue."
Reacting to the court decision, opposition supporters who had gathered outside the court cheered and expressed happiness that the country's diverse opposition had rallied around Barrak.
Elshayyal added that the opposition would still be "on edge" until any final verdict. The court has yet to decide a date for the next hearing.
He said this offers an opportunity for the two parties to reach an agreement, which could pave the way for a lighter or suspended sentence, which may ease the tense situation.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – A Kuwaiti opposition youth activist has been given the maximum sentence of five years in prison for insulting the 'inviolable' emir on Twitter in the third case of its kind since January, following a crackdown on free speech in the country.
Mohammad Eid al-Ajmi will likely appeal his case, despite the fact that his sentence took “immediate effect,” said lawyer Mohammad al-Humaidi, director of the Kuwait Society for Human Rights.
The sentencing was the latest in a series of similar prosecutions for criticizing the 'immune' emir on social media.
Last month, the same court sentenced Ayyad al Harbi and Rashed al Enezi to two years in jail each on similar charges of defaming the emir of Kuwait, the third such case in less than two months. Both are awaiting appeals court rulings.
Enezi did not mention the emir by name in the tweet, but the court said that it was clear who he intended to insult.
A large number of youth activists in Kuwait are on trial on charges similar to the three most recent indictments, and more verdicts are expected in the forthcoming weeks, Humaidi said.
On Tuesday, a verdict will be issued on three different former opposition MPs who criticized the emir at a public rally in October last year. At the time, tensions between authorities and the opposition had flared ahead of a parliamentary election, which the opposition said was illegitimate.
The opposition claimed that voting rules introduced by Sheikh Sabah’s emergency decree in October would tip the December elections in favor of pro-government candidates. Security forces used stun grenades and tear gas to disperse at least three large rallies in support of an imprisoned opposition candidate.
Kuwait is one of several Middle East states that censors social media. In November 2012, the United Arab Emirates also adopted hard-hitting cyber laws, saying that posts damaging to the stature of the state or its institutions would result in a prison sentence. The UAE also banned “information, news, caricatures or any other kind of pictures” that authorities deemed threatening to security or “public order.”
And in November 2012, a Qatari poet was sentenced to life in prison when he wrote and published a poem that encouraged Qataris to overthrow the country's ruling system; he is also appealing his case.
On Monday, the Telegraph reported that the UK’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, said that investigations into comments on networks such as Twitter would have a “chilling effect” on free speech within Britain. Prosecutions in the country involving social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook have increased nearly ninefold in the last four years.
According to the Kuwaiti constitution, the emir is “immune and inviolable,” and it is illegal to criticize him. The country has been increasing crackdowns on those using social media to voice discontent with the emir since last April, as part of new policies announced by Kuwaiti Information Minister Shaikh Mohammad Al Mubarak Al Sabah: “The government is now in the process of establishing laws that will allow government entities to regulate the use of the different new media outlets such as Twitter in order to safeguard the cohesiveness of the population and society,” he said.
That same month, Kuwait also voted in favor of a legal amendment which could make insulting God and the Prophet Mohammad punishable by death. The amendment was approved last December.
“We call on the government to expand freedoms and adhere to the international [human rights] conventions it has signed,” Humadi said. Kuwait is a US ally and a major regional oil producer.
In November, Amnesty International criticized the country for its charges against opposition leader Musallam al-Barrak for “undermining the status of the emir.”
His arrest and prosecution were described as “outrageous,” and “yet another manifestation of the increasing restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly in Kuwait,” said Ann Harrison, Deputy Director for Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Kuwaitis have held a demonstration outside the French embassy in Kuwait City to protest against the French war in Mali.
On Monday, dozens of demonstrators gathered outside the embassy, located on the outskirts of Kuwait City, and shouted anti-war slogans, AFP reported.
They carried banners calling on France to end its war against the people of Mali, condemning "the bloodshed of Muslims" in the West African country.
On January 11, France launched a war under the pretext of halting the advance of the fighters who control the north of Mali. The United States, Canada, Britain, Belgium, Germany, and Denmark have said that they would support the French war in Mali.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has also pledged to support the French war by sending 5,800 soldiers to Mali.
The Kuwaiti protesters urged Persian Gulf leaders not to support the French offensive.
The government deployed a large number of security forces outside the embassy building, but the demonstration ended peacefully.
Chaos broke out in Mali after President Amadou Toumani Toure was toppled in a military coup on March 22, 2012. The coup leaders said they mounted the coup in response to the government's inability to contain the Tuareg rebellion in the north of the country, which had been going on for two months.
However, in the wake of the coup d’état, the Tuareg rebels took control of the entire northern desert region, but the Ansar Dine fighters then pushed them aside and took control of the region.-www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: Press TV
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Kuwaiti riot policehave used stun grenades, tear gas and smoke bombs against thousands of demonstrators who blocked a major road south of the capital.
Thousands of opposition supporters planned a rally to protest against a new electoral law on Sunday. The country's security forces completely sealed off the original protest site in Kuwait City, so organisers told supporters via Twitter to gather instead at Mishref, some 20km south of the capital.
Although most roads leading to the new location were quickly closed off by police, thousands of people still managed to get through and immediately started marching.
They briefly cut off the sixth ring road, the main motorway in the south of Kuwait, before calling off the demonstration barely an hour after it began.
The opposition had called the march to protest against an amendment to an electoral law ordered by the emir last month ahead of a snap December 1 parliamentary election.
"After we have expressed our message of rejecting any play in the constitution, we announce the end of the procession," said the organisers on their Twitter account named "The Dignity of a Nation."
Reports of arrests
Activists said a number of protesters were rounded up but there were no immediate reports of injuries.
The emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, met late on Sunday with four opposition figures, including two former Islamist MPs, in what appeared to be a mediation effort aimed at ending the stalemate.
Former MP Mohammad Hayef said on Twitter that the emir told them he would accept that the constitutional court rule on the disputed amendment to the electoral constituency law which triggered the current stand-off.
It was the first official meeting between the emir and the opposition since the dispute began several weeks ago.
Earlier, hundreds of members of the elite special forces and police, backed by armoured vehicles, deployed at two sites the opposition had set for Sunday's demonstrations and blocked roads leading to them.
The government had vowed to use force if necessary to prevent the march, saying that processions and demonstrations are illegal without a permit.
A government statement late on Saturday said the interior ministry had not given permission for Sunday's demonstration, nor had it received a request from the organisers for one.
Interior minister Sheikh Ahmad al-Humud al-Sabah told the official news agency KUNA that security guards would maintain public order and curb any illegal activities.
Security forces used tear gas to break up two protests by tens of thousands of demonstrators in the past two weeks in which more than 130 protesters and 16 policemen were injured.
Almost all opposition groups have said they will boycott the December 1 poll in protest at what they see as a bid to create a rubber stamp assembly.
The opposition, made up of Islamists, nationalists and liberals, won a February general election but the constitutional court quashed the vote in June and reinstated the previous pro-government parliament which was dissolved last month.
Opposition leaders insist they have no desire to undermine the ruling Al-Sabah family, and on Friday pledged their loyalty to the emir while renewing their demand for the new electoral law to be repealed.— www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Al Jazeera
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — The Marsad Saudi Newspaper reported that “Some mediators who work for the favor of a Kuwaiti businessman demanded from the Iraqi Interior Ministry to buy the rope by which the former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was hanged.”
The newspaper quoted a reliable Iraqi source as saying “The earlier mentioned businessman is ready to pay $ 20 million or any required sums of money to buy this rope.”
Marsad Newspaper cited that “The Kuwaiti businessman was informed that this rope is owned currently by the leader of the Sadr Trend Muqtada al-Sadr.”
“The Iraqi source expected that the businessman maybe obliged to negotiate with Sadr for this purpose,” the newspaper added.—www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — A Kuwaiti lawmaker has asked Muslim and Arab countries to take stringent action to help Muslims targeted in Myanmar, insisting that Kuwait should assume a pioneering role in the drive.
“We urge all Islamic and Arab countries to adopt a strong position to put an end to the killing of Muslims in Myanmar,” MP Mubarak Al Alwan said. “If there is no strong stance against this tragedy afflicting Muslims in Myanmar, we are sure that there will be a repeat in other Asian countries against Muslim minorities,” he said in a statement.
Al Alwan said that the international community has been ominously quiet about the events in Myanmar.
“Muslims are being specifically targeted and oppressed. Al Muslim countries must move promptly and without hesitation to help them and put an end to the killing of innocent civilians, children and women. The world is watching in silence. ”The lawmaker said that Kuwait should move decisively to put an end to the “systematic murders and rapes targeting the Muslim community”.
“We demand that Kuwait launch an international drive for a Security Council resolution that condemns the barbaric acts against Muslims in Myanmar and establishes humanitarian assistance to help the victims. We also call for expelling the Myanmar envoy in Kuwait and for severing diplomatic relations with the Fascist regime,” he said.
Kuwaitis should be empowered to set up committees that will collect donations and essential items to help the victims, he said.
“It is a real tragedy and we should move to halt and end this collective killing of Muslims,” he said.
Amnesty International, the human rights group, has accused both security forces and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists of carrying out attacks against Rohingyas.
The Rohingyas are regarded as foreigners by the ethnic majority. They are reportedly denied citizenship by the government because it considers them illegal settlers from neighbouring Bangladesh, the rights watchdog said.
The UN estimates that 800,000 Rohingyas live in Burma.—www.shafaqna.com/english
Source: Gulg News