In Kuwait: Free speech is something and insulting emir is something else

Illegal to criticise emir

KUWAIT CITY - A Kuwaiti court on Tuesday sentenced three former opposition MPs to three years in jail for insulting the emir in public, their lawyer and an official of a rights group said.
"The verdict against Khaled al-Tahus, Falah al-Sawwagh and Bader al-Dahum is three years each with immediate effect," attorney Mohammad al-Jumia wrote on his Twitter account while attending the court session.
The former lawmakers were charged of undermining the status of the emir during an address at a public gathering on October 10 in which they warned that any amendment to the electoral law could lead to street protests.
Kuwait later saw protests with demonstrators claiming that the amendment to the electoral law allowed the government to influence election results and elect a rubber-stamp assembly.
The Kuwaiti opposition even boycotted the December 1 general polls in protest against the amended law.
Mohammad al-Humaidi, director of Kuwait Society for Human Rights, confirmed Tuesday's verdict and said what the defendants spoke at the gathering was "more of an advice rather than a criticism."
"There is no clause in the Kuwaiti constitution that bars people from addressing the emir directly and advising him," Humaidi said.
Under Kuwait's constitution, it is illegal to criticise the emir.
There was no immediate reaction from the former MPs who were detained for six days in October and then released on a bail of $17,850 each after the first hearing.
During that hearing they strongly denied the charges levied against them, saying they had spoken within limits of the law.
Tuesday's verdict is not final and can be challenged in the court of appeals and the Supreme Court.
OPEC member Kuwait which produces around 3.0 million barrels of oil per day, has been rocked by ongoing political disputes since mid-2006 that have stalled development despite abundant surpluses.