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Kuwait Man Receives 7 Year Sentence for Tweets

A Kuwaiti man has received seven years in prison for a series of Tweets local Shiites considered offensive and 'damaged Kuwait's image'
By Gabe Kahn
First Publish: 4/10/2012, 7:20 PM

Islam or Internet?
Islam or Internet?
Reuters

A Kuwaiti court on Tuesday sentenced a local Sunni Muslim writer to seven years in jail and ordered that he pay nearly $18,000 for a series of controversial Tweets.

The court said Kuwaiti Mohammad al-Mulaifi posted "falsehoods about sectarian divisions" and "insulted the Shiite faith and its scholars." The ruling also said the controversial Tweets "damaged Kuwait's image."

al-Mulaifi was arrested in February after his comments triggered protests by Shiites, according to Kuwaiti media. Shiites make up around 30 percent of Kuwait's roughly 1 million native citizens

Twitter is very popular in the Gulf region, but it has also pitted freedom of expression against deeply entrenched ultra-conservative Islamic mores and led to a series of high profile arrests of activists, and political and religious dissenters who speak their minds.

Police also arrested a Kuwaiti Shiite last month, accusing him of "insulting the Prophet Mohammad" on his Twitter account. He denied this, saying his account was hacked, according to his lawyer.

Dozens of Sunni activists protested last week to condemn the man and some members of the now-Islamist dominated parliament went so far as to call for his execution.

In September a Kuwaiti court convicted another man for "insulting Gulf rulers" and posting "inflammatory sectarian comments online."

The al-Mulaifi case came on the heels of the high profile arrest of former Saudi journalist Hazma Kashgari, who fled the kingdom following calls for his execution over a series of Tweets in which he allegedly "insulted the Prophet Mohammad."

Kashgari was ultimately released after publicly repenting, but is now barred from pursuing his career as a journalist. Those who expressed support for him online were also targeted by Saudi authorities.

Critics say Saudi King Abdul Azziz summed up the conflict between liberty and Islam in the Gulf region when he explained his decision to sign Kashgari's arrest warrant.

"People are put on trial for offending other people," the king had said.