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Kuwait opposition figure’s trial put off to October 27

Postponement ordered after witnesses fail to show up

  • By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief
  • Published: 16:10 September 8, 2013
  • Gulf News

Manama: Kuwait’s court of appeals on Sunday adjourned the trial of opposition figure Musallam Al Barrak to October 27.

The court said that it was keen on hearing the testimony of the witnesses who reportedly did not show up at the trial session.

Reports said that the list of witnesses included two police officers.

The trial session was held after the court in May overturned a five-year jail term against the prominent opposition leader, but refused to drop the case brought against him on charges of undermining the status of the Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah in a speech he gave in October.

The ex-MP, well known throughout his years in the country’s parliament for his vociferous statements and sharp stances, reportedly deliberately broke long-held social taboos in the relations of the citizens with their ruler. In April, Al Barrak was given a five-year jail sentence for the “abusive” speech he delivered at the pinnacle of a bitter standoff between the government and the opposition over the amendment of the controversial 2006 electoral law.

The opposition, made up mostly of religiously conservative and tribal figures, said that the amendment that reduced the number of ballots a voter could cast from four to one was meant to ensure the election of a rubber-stamp parliament.

However, the government argued that the “one voter, one vote” principle was adopted universally and that the amendment would help address possible legal loopholes that had marred past elections.

Pushing for popular pressure to revoke the decree, the opposition opted for street tactics and staged several rallies and demonstrations where leaders gave passionate speeches.

According to security forces and several political parties, Al Barrak, in one of his speeches, stepped over the limits by challenging the status and authority of the Emir.

However, the ex-MP and his supporters denied the charges and insisted on the good intention of the speech.

The drama surrounding the case was intensified after Al Barrak refused to turn himself in to the police, arguing that he wanted to see the original arrest warrant and managed to remain out of prison until he appeared before the court of appeals in May to challenge the jail sentence.

His lawyers requested the court to send the case back to the lower court on the grounds that the five-year ruling was null and void after the judge ignored the defendant’s constitutional rights.

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