Kuwait Upholds Online Activist’s Sentence, Condemns Bedoon Activist to 5 Years

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Published Monday, February 2, 2015

Kuwait’s appeals court on Monday upheld a four-year jail sentence against Ahmed Fadhel, an online activist, for insulting judges on Twitter, according to the court ruling. The verdict comes a day after a lower court sentenced a stateless activist for five years in jail for allegedly insulting the ruler of the oil-rich Gulf state, his lawyer said.

A lower court in October handed the jail term against Fadhel who was charged with writing comments on Twitter deemed offensive to a number of judges, who then sued him.

In Sunday’s case, Khaled al-Kafeefa told AFP that defendant Abdullah al-Enezi, who has apparently fled the country, was not present in court for the ruling.

Enezi was arrested in February last year for taking part in a gathering for stateless people, locally known as bedoons, to demand Kuwaiti citizenship and was charged with insulting the emir.

Criticizing the emir in Kuwait is considered a state security offense, with those found guilty faced with up to five years behind bars.

The monarchy’s constitution describes the emir as "immune and inviolable" and criticizing him is therefore illegal and considered a state security offense, with those found guilty faced with up to five years behind bars.

International rights campaigners accuse the Kuwaiti government of restricting the freedom of expression since the eruption of pro-reform protests in 2012, which led to the cabinet's resignation.

According to Human Rights Watch's (HRW) 2014 world report, in 2013 Kuwaiti authorities prosecuted dozens of people who expressed critical views of the government – via social media or during the protests.

Enezi was detained for three months before being released on a $1,700 bail and banned from travel, the lawyer said, adding that he learned that Enezi had fled Kuwait and sought political asylum in a Western country.

HRW called on Kuwait in April to investigate allegations of police torture of Enezi and two other stateless men detained for taking part in protests.

On Sunday, the Kuwaiti court also acquitted 36 bedoons who had been accused of taking part in an unlicensed demonstration and assaulting police, Kafeefa said.

Moreover, a lower court on Thursday sentenced six stateless men to one year in jail to be followed by deportation for allegedly taking part in an unlicensed gathering and assaulting police.

The court asked five of them to pay each $700 to suspend the jail term, but refused to extend the exemption to the sixth defendant, leading stateless rights activist Abdelhakim al-Fadhli.

All the rulings can be challenged in the supreme court.

The bedoons were born and raised in Kuwait and claim the right to Kuwaiti citizenship. However, the government says only 34,000 of an estimated 110,000 stateless qualify for consideration and that the rest hold other nationalities.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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