Kuwaiti opposition candidate Musallam Al Barrak (C) celebrates with supporters following his victory in the parliamentary elections in Kuwait City early on February 3, 2012. Image Credit: AFP

Manama: A Kuwaiti court on Monday sentenced former lawmaker Musallam Al Barrak to five years in jail for undermining the status of the Emir.

"The court has sentenced the defendant Musallam Al Barrak to five years in prison with immediate effect," said judge Wael Al Atiqi.

The leading opposition figure was found guilty of abusing the Emir in a speech he delivered in October at the height of the standoff between the government and former lawmakers over the merit of a decree that amended the 2006 electoral law and reduced the number of candidates a voter could elect from four to one.

The government said that the amendment addressed legal loopholes and brought the country in line with international election standards, but the opposition said that it was meant to reduce its influence and ensure the election of a rubber-stamp parliament.

The opposition organized a series of demonstrations and staged rallies during which several passionate speeches were delivered and calls to boycott the elections were issued.

In his comments following the announcement of the jail sentence, Abdul Rahman Al Barrak, the former MP’s lawyer, said that the verdict was in violation of Article 34 of the constitution and that they would appeal it.

The decision to jail the leading opposition figure could have enormous repercussions in the country that has over the past years seen unrest on the street from the opposition which has led to sometimes violent confrontations with law enforcement authorities.

The opposition on Sunday agreed to hold a rally to express solidarity with Al Barrak ahead of the ruling and an emergency meeting in the afternoon to discuss the measures it will take in case he is sentenced to jail.