Manama: A Kuwaiti court on Sunday sentenced Rashid Al Hajiri to two years in prison for posting remarks deemed offensive to the country’s emir and encouraging participation in illegal demonstrations.
However, the criminal court ruled that the prison sentence against the blogger would be suspended if he paid 2,000 Kuwaiti dinars (Dh25,778).
In two separate cases, a court adjourned the trial of blogger Hamid Al Khalidi to March 31 while Nasser Al Mutairi, another blogger, saw his court case adjourned to April 28 for further studies.
The two men are facing charges of using their Twitter accounts to undermine the status of the emir.
Kuwaiti authorities had pledged to take legal action against bloggers who “misused” the microblog or social networks to break the law.
The public prosecution meanwhile ordered the release of activist Abdul Hakim Al Fadhli upon the payment of a KD300 bail.
Al Fadhli was last week acquitted by the country’s court of appeals after it dropped the two-year jail sentence pronounced earlier by the criminal court.
The lower court issued its verdict based on the charges of organising outlawed demonstrations, encouraging people to take part in illegal rallies and assaulting the police.
However, Al Fadhli will remain in police custody and will have to answer to charges in another case. He is expected to appear before the judges on Monday.
In neighbouring Saudi Arabia, General Mufti Shaikh Abdul Aziz Al Shaikh said that microblogging site Twitter has turned into “a platform for the ostentatious and a corruption space for those who post false, misleading and phony tweets.”
“Most of young and not so young men and women and even children as young as five today fill hours with useless activities,” the Mufti said. “They waste their time on smartphones and the Internet, particularly social networks and microblogs that have become a source of misleading and deceptive remarks,” he said, quoted by Saudi Arabic daily Al Watan.
Al Shaikh however did not ban the use of the Internet for other purposes, including online shopping.
Commenting on the Mufti’s remarks, Saadia, a blogger, said that the issue should be placed in the right context.
“There are many social networks and blogs that allow people to make remarks,” she posted. “However, the real issue is not with these social networks, but rather with those who misuse it.”
A survey conducted in December found that Facebook, the social network, was used by 59 per cent of high school girls in Saudi Arabia, a country ranked 33rd in the world for Facebook use thanks to its 5,906,220 users.
According to the study prepared by Saudi researcher Fawzia Al Harbi, social issues dominated the chat and posts, while politics and sports were of the least interest for the teenage girls, mostly aged between 16 and 18.
According to the research, 62 per cent of the students, from government and private schools in the Saudi capital Riyadh, used the social network to chat with friends while only two per cent said they used it to communicate with their teachers, prompting calls to education officials to work on improving the rate for the sake of better learning and teaching standards.