Daily Israel Report

Kuwait: Man Given Five Years for Insulting the Emir on Twitter

A Kuwaiti court sentences a local man to five years in prison for insulting the emir on Twitter.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 2/4/2013, 6:42 AM

Kuwait Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah
Kuwait Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah
Reuters

A Kuwaiti court sentenced a man to five years in prison on Sunday for insulting the emir on Twitter, a rights lawyer and news websites said, according to Al-Arabiya.

This is the latest prosecution for criticism of authorities via social media in the Gulf Arab state, the report said.

The court gave Kuwaiti Mohammad Eid al-Ajmi the maximum sentence for the comments, Kuwaiti news websites al-Rai and alaan.cc reported.

In recent months, Kuwait has penalized several Twitter users for criticizing the emir, who is described as “immune and inviolable” in the constitution, Al-Arabiya noted.

“We call on the government to expand freedoms and adhere to the international (human rights) conventions it has signed,” lawyer Mohammad al-Humaidi, director of the Kuwait Society for Human Rights, was quoted as having said about the case.

Courts in Kuwait generally do not comment to the media.

Amnesty International said in November that Kuwait had increased restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly.

It urged Kuwait to ensure protection for users of social media, whether they supported or opposed the government, as long as they did not incite racial hatred or violence.

Kuwait, a U.S. ally and major oil producer, has been taking a firmer line on politically sensitive comments aired on the internet. Twitter is extremely popular in the country of 3.7 million people.

Criticizing the emir is illegal in Kuwait and is considered worthy of a state security charge. Under the law, people who are convicted of the offense face a jail term of up to five years.

Last month, a court sentenced two men, Ayyad al-Harbi and Rashed al-Enezi, in separate cases to jail time for insulting the emir on Twitter, reported Al-Arabiya.

Enezi and Harbi, both in their 20s, are the first to be sentenced among dozens of activists and ex-opposition lawmakers who have been charged with similar offenses since the government began a clampdown ahead of elections held on December 1.

In June 2012, a man was sentenced to ten years in prison after he was convicted of endangering state security by insulting the Muslim prophet Mohammad and the Sunni Muslim rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain on social media.

Two months earlier, in April of 2012, Kuwait’s parliament provisionally passed amendments to the Gulf state’s penal code stipulating the death penalty for those who curse Allah, the prophet Mohammad or his wives.

Any change in the law has to be approved by the Kuwaiti emir, but reports at the time said he had rejected the push to bring in the death penalty.

Also in April, a Kuwaiti court 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."