Musallam Al Barrak Image Credit: AFP

Manama: Kuwait’s Cassation Court, the highest court in the country, on Monday upheld a two-year jail sentence against former lawmaker Musallam Al Barrak. The verdict is final and cannot be appealed.

“This ruling is without the slightest doubt political,” Al Barrak reportedly said following the verdict. “I thank God that I am not interested in wealth or power and I will always uphold my dignity both inside the prison and outside,” he said, Kuwaiti media reported.

In February, the Court of Appeals sentenced Al Barrak to two years in jail for insulting the country’s Emir.

The trial of Kuwait’s top dissident had galvanised the country’s attention.

He was initially sentenced to five years in prison for abusing the status of the Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah in a speech he gave in 2012.

For Al Barrak, his remarks addressed to the country’s ruler were freedom of expression, a claim that was noisily endorsed by supporters.

“I have never insulted the Emir,” he said. “I wanted to draw attention to some facts in the country,” he said.

However, for the authorities, his words, harsh in their content and unprecedented in their character, amounted to stepping over local values.

The stand-off, against the backdrop of uprisings in some Arab countries, the emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood as the new rulers and the increasing instability risks in the regions, has threatened to freeze the country in a political deadlock with ominously uncertain consequences for Kuwait.

The dissolution of the parliament elected in February 2012 and dominated by Islamists and tribal candidates in June 2012 accentuated the stalemate between the government and the lawmakers.

The situation was compounded by the amendment of the 2006 controversial electoral law that slashed the number of candidates a voter could elect from four to one.

For the opposition, it was a move to curb its growing influence and ensure the election of a rubber-stamp parliament.

For the government, it was aligning the country with international practices and addressing a loophole in the election process ahead of the parliamentary elections in December.

In October 2012, Al Barrak, one of the most prominent leaders who opposed the amendment and the new elections, gave a speech that sent shock waves across Kuwait and in which he addressed the Emir in direct challenges.

He was warmly hailed by his supporters, but strongly condemned by those who accused him of using the situation to score political points to serve his ambitions.

Al Barrak was subsequently summoned by the authorities for crossing the red line and insulting the emir.

Rare show of defiance

He showed up at his trial and he was sentenced to five years in prison.

However, Al Barrak, in a rare show of defiance, refused to turn himself in to the police or to allow them to arrest him until he was shown the original arrest warrant, effectively managing to remain out of prison until the court of appeals reviewed his case on April 22, 2013 amid tight security.

The case was used by lawmakers who opposed Al Barrak’s attitude to threaten to question the interior minister for failing to apprehend him, in a clear indication of how divided the country was over the situation.

The judge ruled to allow Al Barrak to remain out of prison on 5,000 dinars (Dh60,973) bail, but said that he should stand before the judge on May 13.

The case was put on and off until the ruling in February. The saga continued after the lawyer decided to take the case to the court of cassation.