Manama: Kuwait’s criminal court on Tuesday sentenced three former lawmakers to three years in prison each for criticising the emir in public.
Falah Al Sawwagh, Khalid Al Tahoos and Bader Al Dahoom were found guilty on the charges of undermining the status of the emir, Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah.
According to the case papers, the three ex-MPs attacked the emir at a meeting held in October at the diwaniya (private hall) of former lawmaker Salem Al Namlan.
The case was brought against them by the state security and the three former MPs who denied the charges were initially held for 10 days before they were released on KD5,000 bails.
Political turmoil has affected Kuwait after the Constitutional Court de facto dissolved the parliament in June after it ruled that the decrees calling for the dissolving the previous legislative house and calling for elections in February were unconstitutional.
A decision to amend the 2006 election law and slash the number of candidates a voter could elect from four to one split the nation and the opposition pledged to fight back by organizing public rallies and pushing for the boycott of the parliamentary elections in December.
The three lawmakers sentenced on Tuesday used one of the rallies to deliver speeches in which they allegedly undermined defamed the emir.
The calls to boycott the elections failed to erode the status of the parliament as planned and the opposition has faced since December real challenges to remain united and exert further pressure.
On Monday, the information ministry said that Kuwait supported free speech but had to act against comments targetting the emir.
“Kuwait has a long-standing proud tradition of open debate and free speech,” the ministry said. “We are a country led by the rule of law and our constitution holds our Emir to be inviolable. If our citizens wish to amend the constitution there is a straightforward legal way to do this, but we will not selectively enforce our laws.”
Tuesday’s verdict is not final and can be challenged in the court of appeals and the supreme court.