Tuesday, April 16, 2013

1000s of Kuwaitis Protest over Jailing of Opposition Leader

TEHRAN (FNA)- Thousands of Kuwaitis held a demonstration against the government after a court sentenced leading opposition politician Mussallam al-Barrak to five years in prison for insulting Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah.

On Monday night, about 10,000 activists gathered at the politician's house near the capital Kuwait City and later marched towards the nearby central prison, where Barrak would serve his jail term, press tv reported.

They disrupted traffic at a major highway but police stayed away from the angry protesters.

Barrak was sentenced by the court over anti-Sheikh Sabah remarks he made at a public rally on October 15, 2012.

On Monday, in a show of solidarity with Barrak, 15 former opposition MPs and prominent activists repeated most of his speech, which was deemed offensive to the emir by the court. They plan to do the same every day.

Earlier in the day, Barrak said at his residence that the "ruling is illegal but I will give myself up to police if they come to pick me up."

The Kuwaiti information ministry defended the ruling and the country's judicial system.

"Kuwait has a transparent and independent judicial system. All citizens, regardless of their position, are equal in the eyes of the law," the ministry said in a statement.

"Anyone accused of a crime in Kuwait will get a fair trial with a comprehensive legal defense and open appeals process," it said.

Since the December 1, 2012 parliamentary elections, the opposition has been staging almost daily protests to demand that the new parliament be dissolved and the changes made to the electoral law be reversed.

Activists say a decision to change the electoral law by Sheikh Sabah was aimed at electing a rubber-stamp parliament.

Kuwait was the first Arab state in the Persian Gulf to establish an elected parliament in 1962. However, the Al Sabah family remained in control of key posts, including the premiership and the ministries of defense, interior, and foreign affairs.

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