Kuwaiti riot police suppress anti-government rally

Kuwait opposition supporters take part in a demonstration to demand the dissolution of the parliament in the Sabahiya district, in southern Kuwait city, on 22 January 2013. (Photo: AFP - Yasser al-Zayyat)

Published Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Kuwaiti riot police fired tear gas and stun grenades at hundreds of opposition supporters who demonstrated on Tuesday for the fourth time this month to press for dissolving parliament.

Many people suffered from breathing problems after inhaling a new type of tear gas used for the first time by police, witnesses told AFP.

Chanting anti-government slogans, protesters called for dissolving the new pro-government parliament, elected last month after the opposition boycotted the polls in protest against the controversial electoral law.

The protest, staged in tribal-dominated Sabahiya, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) south of Kuwait City, was led by a number of former opposition lawmakers, including Musallam al-Barrak.

Video shows riot police backed by armored vehicles launch an apparently unprovoked attack on demonstrators:

Protesters also called for an elected popular government in this Gulf state where the emir, crown prince, prime minister and key ministers are from the Sabah family in power for more than 250 years.

Barrak strongly condemned on Twitter what he called police violence, saying this will not stop opposition protests, which will continue until the realization of "a constitutional monarchy and elected government."

Opposition figures have threatened to take police atrocities against activists to international human rights organizations, and to parliaments in Western countries.

The opposition has been protesting an amendment to the electoral law which it says favors pro-government candidates in elections.

The Western-backed Gulf state has been rocked by a series of political disputes between MPs and the government since mid-2006, but tensions escalated last year following the change in the electorcal law.

The monarchy over the past few months has jailed a number of opposition leaders and Internet activists, including at least two Twitter users earlier this month, over remarks criticizing the ruling family.

International rights organizations have condemned Kuwait’s crackdown and called for the release of political prisoners.

The last anti-government protests took place without incident on January 16 in the Reqa district, and January 13 in Sabah al-Nasser, just outside the capital.

On January 5, riot police attacked hundreds of opposition protesters in Kuwait city. Police violently suppressed several other anti-government protests last year following the voting amendment.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar, Reuters)

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