Manama: A controversial Kuwaiti lawmaker has been stripped of his parliamentary immunity by his fellow members who also rejected his sick leave excuse as “unacceptable”, setting the stage for the revocation of his membership.
The lifting of the immunity will allow the public prosecution to proceed with Dashti’s questioning in the case related to causing offens to Saudi Arabia, a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) alongside Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Dashti has often waded into controversy, especially through openly supporting Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, but his “scathing attacks and tenacious provocations” of Saudi Arabia and his repeated incitement against the Saudi kingdom have landed him in legal trouble after the Saudi embassy in Kuwait reported him to the Kuwaiti authorities.
Under Kuwaiti law, any individual convicted of hostile act against a foreign country that may put the country at risk of war or the severance of diplomatic relations may be jailed up to three years.
In February, Saudi Ambassador Abdul Aziz Al Fayez presented a memorandum to the Kuwaiti foreign ministry after the lawmaker appeared on a pro-Syrian regime television channel and said that Saudi Arabia was sponsoring terrorism and should be bombed.
Referring to the current situation in war-torn Syria, Dashti said that there were countries near Syria that supported terrorism and should be targeted. He reportedly named Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
The remarks trigged a wave of criticism and condemnation on social networks, with users arguing that it was not the first time the lawmaker attacked Saudi Arabia.
Several lawmakers called on the government to take strong action against Dashti, arguing that he was harming Kuwait’s relations with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
A court in Bahrain in December sentenced him to two years in prison for “involvement through coercion, complacency and assistance in illegal public fundraising in contravention of the Penal Code and the Public Fundraising Regulatory Law.”
In compliance with the court verdict, Bahrain’s Public Prosecution in January addressed the judiciary in Kuwait to notify Dashti about the court ruling. However, Dashti left Kuwait after the government launched legal action against him, but now after lifting the immunity, the parliament will inform him formally about the Bahrain ruling.
Reports in Kuwait said that the lawmaker vowed to respond to his detractors at a press conference, but he did not divulge his location amid speculations he was in Britain or in Syria where he has close ties to the ruling establishment.
The developments in the case of Dashti were triggered by his formal request to approve his absence from the sessions on medical grounds.
In his request to parliament dated March 10, Dashti said that he had suffered a massive heart attack in Geneva and that he could be flown to London for medical treatment.
The lawmaker said that he would not be able to attend the parliament sessions on March 15, 16, 29 and 30 for medical reasons.
During the debate in parliament, several lawmakers accused Dashti of strong links with Iran and Deputy Speaker Mubarak Al Khrainej reportedly called for an investigation into claims that he travelled in Iranian diplomatic cars.
Those who sided with Dashti said that different views had to be respected and called for applying the law, but without politicising the issue.
However, opponents argued that Dashti was not expressing a political viewpoint, and that he was in fact calling for bombing Saudi Arabia.
Speaker Marzooq Al Ghanim said that he wanted parliament to decide whether Dashti’s absence excuse was acceptable, and the vote resulted in an overwhelming rejection with only five of the 45 lawmakers present accepting it.
Under Kuwait’s parliament bylaws, a lawmaker cannot skip a session without informing the Speaker about the reasons, and a lawmaker planning to be absent for more than one month has to inform the Speaker.
A lawmaker who misses five consecutive sessions or ten non-successive sessions loses his financial dues, and if he is absent again without excuses, his case is referred to the lawmakers who have the right to consider him as a resignee.