Human Rights Watch: Kuwait Wrong For Imprisoning Shiite Tweeter

Man, 23, sentenced to 10 years for religious insults; Human Rights Watch: Release him immediately.

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Tova Dvorin,

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Kuwait's court of appeals yesterday (Monday) upheld a 10-year sentence against a Shiite Muslim for tweeting comments deemed offensive to the Islamic prophet Muhammed and his family, Lebanese outlet NOW Media reports. 

Hamad al-Naqi, 23, has been imprisoned since March 2012 by a lower court for charges of religious insults as well as criticizing the leaders of nearby Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The ruling can still be overturned in Kuwait's Supreme Court. 

Naqi's comments, made in February and March 2012, are deeply offensive to Sunni Muslims, who revere the Islamic prophet as well as his household and companions. Naqi claims that his account had been hacked.

The New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) called upon Kuwaiti leaders today (Tuesday) for his immediate release. HRW, in an official statement, called the move "a violation of the right to free speech" and urged that "locking up political critics isn't going to make Kuwait's political crisis go away." 

Kuwait has increasingly jailed political opponents in the past several years amid rising tensions between the country's Sunni Muslims, the majority, and the Shiite minority. The announcement also follows heightened scrutiny regarding other dissidents, including talk of banning homosexuals from Gulf countries. Speculation has also been raised that Kuwait has been financing the Syrian Civil War, a conflict which also arose from a dictatorial response to political dissidents.