Kuwait City: Dozens of Kuwaiti activists staged an unprecedented protest on Monday outside the courtroom where opposition leader and former MP Mussallam Al Barrak was being tried on charges of insulting the emir.
“Jail us in place of Mussallam Al Barrak,” chanted the activists who were prevented entry into the small courtroom in the Palace of Justice in the heart of Kuwait City.
“Mussallam ... you are the conscience of the whole nation,” the firebrand lawmaker’s supporters shouted.
It was the first time ever that a protest has taken place inside the Palace of Justice in Kuwait. Police did not interfere in the demonstration, which passed off peacefully.
Barrak is being tried on charges of insulting Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah when he made remarks at a public rally on October 15.
Activists carried Al Barrak as he came from the room and continued shouting slogans.
“On your behalf and on behalf of the nation, I declare that this [protest] movement will continue. Jails, batons and tear gas cannons will not stop us,” Barrak told the crowd just outside the Palace of Justice.
“We are not against the regime but against corruption ... This is a war against corruption and corrupt people ... who are trying to steal the future of Kuwait,” he said. “It’s time that people are allowed to manage their affairs through an elected government.”
Thamer Al Jadaei, Barrak’s main counsel in a 40-strong legal team, said the court had set the next hearing for February 11 to hear the final defence arguments.
If the court convicts Al Barrak, he faces a jail term of up to five years.
The opposition figure was detained for five days in October after making the remarks but was later released on bail of $35,500 (Dh130,356) and banned from leaving Kuwait.
The court is slated to issue its verdict on February 5 against three former opposition MPs who face similar charges.
Earlier this month, the court sentenced two opposition youth activists to two years in jail each for making tweets deemed insulting to the emir. Dozens of other tweeters face similar charges.
Kuwait’s opposition has been staging protests to demand the dissolution of the parliament elected last month on the basis of an electoral law that was amended by the emir.
The opposition claims that the change is not legal and is aimed at electing a pliant parliament.