Kuwait arrests two former MPs in wake of mass protests
Published Thursday, October 18, 2012
Kuwaiti police arrested two former opposition MPs Thursday for making statements at a public rally deemed critical of the Gulf state's ruler, an opposition leader said.
"Two former (Islamist) MPs, Falah al-Sawwagh and Bader al-Dahum, have just been arrested by the state security police," Mussallam al-Barrak, himself a former deputy, told reporters.
A third former lawmaker, Khaled al-Tahus, was called in for questioning by the public prosecutor, according to a post on his Twitter account.
All three politicians spoke on October 10 at an opposition rally protesting an alleged government plan to amend the electoral law to manipulate election results in its favor.
They directly addressed Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, warning him that any amendment to the election law could lead to streets protests and chaos.
Under Kuwait's constitution, it is illegal to criticize the Emir.
Local media reported that authorities planned to summon several former MPs for interrogation on similar charges. If convicted, they could face imprisonment.
An opposition rally on Monday brought together an estimated 5,000 protesters, defying a government order to cancel the demonstration outside the national assembly.
"We are not scared of your new batons nor the jails you have built ... violence will only lead to counter-violence," al-Barrak said to the crowd. "Kuwaiti people will not allow the country to be governed through an autocratic rule."
The rally turned violent as riot police beat up young activists, wounding at least four and arresting four others. The interior ministry said an unspecified number of policemen were also wounded.
The Al-Sabah ruling family has ruled the oil-rich emirate unchallenged for more than 250 years. The emir, crown prince, prime minister and key cabinet ministers are all from the ruling family.
The Gulf state has been rocked by a series of political crises since 2006 during which the government resigned nine times and parliament was dissolved on six occasions, five of them by the emir and one by the courts. Kuwait will soon go to the polls for the second time this year and a fifth time since mid-2006.
Islamist and tribal opposition groups have formed a bloc to rival the ruling family-dominated government and have threatened to boycott the elections should the electoral law be amended.