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Kuwait emir insult case: 68 face prosecution

Trials of private TV channel crew and bloggers postponed

Gulf News

Manama: Kuwait’s public prosecution is set to investigate a number of people for allegedly undermining the status of the country’s emir.

The 68 men and women have been referred to the prosecution by the state security agency amid suspicions that they helped disseminate a controversial speech given by opposition leader Musallam Al Barrak for which he was sentenced to five years in prison, local Arabic daily Al Jareeda reported on Thursday.

“The suspects are to be summoned for publicly repeating or reproducing the speech by Al Barrak on Twitter accounts or through video clips,” security sources told the newspaper.

According to news site Al Aan, the list of suspects includes former lawmakers, media representatives and political activists.

Al Barrak, who is facing a re-trial this month after his prison sentence was suspended, gave the speech in October at the height of a standoff between the government and the opposition over the amendment of the electoral law that curtailed the number of ballots a voter could cast from four to one. The streets of Kuwait City and the blogosphere became charged with the positions taken by supporters and opponents of the move and the tensions only subsided after the parliamentary elections were held in December.

Several bloggers have been put on trial in the last few weeks for posting tweets deemed offensive to the Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah amid pledges by Kuwaiti authorities that the law of the land will be strictly enforced.

On Wednesday, the appeals court put off until May 22 the trial of blogger Iyad Al Harbi on charges of abusing the emir through tweets he posted on his account.

In a separate case, another court adjourned to June 5 the trial of the head of Al Alem Al Yawm and a television crew of the private broadcaster for undermining the prestige of the emir.

In comments on the court cases, several Al Aan readers said that the bloggers were “well aware that the emir was a red line that should not be trespassed” and that “they should have anticipated legal action against them for breaking the rules.”

In another case pertaining to religious sensitivities, a blogger, Musab Shamsah, was remanded in custody for 10 days on charges of posting remarks deemed offensive to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). The defendant denied the charges and argued that his remarks had been misinterpreted. He said that he had eventually deleted his comments and sought to explain what he actually meant. However, the prosecution was not convinced and decided to keep him in custody.

With the embers of sectarianism flaring in the region, several countries have been pushing for robust policies to protect their social fabric from divisive forces.