A Kuwaiti court sentenced three former lawmakers to three years each in prison for insulting the country’s ruler at a public gathering last year, a human rights lawyer said today.
Khalid Al-Tahoos, Falah Al-Sawagh and Bader Al-Dahoom, all members of Kuwait’s opposition movement, were sentenced by the criminal court to “three years with hard labor and with immediate effect,” Mohammed Al-Humaidi, director of the Kuwait Society for Human Rights, said by phone from Kuwait City.
The verdict follows reports on Feb. 3 that a Kuwaiti man was sentenced to five years in prison for Twitter posts that insulted Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah. The emir is protected under the country’s Constitution. Kuwaiti authorities should ensure people are “free to peacefully express their opinions, including about the electoral law, the elections and the emir,” Amnesty International said in November.
“We are a country led by the rule of law and our constitution holds our emir to be inviolable,” the Ministry of Information said in an e-mailed statement after the court ruling. “If our citizens wish to amend the constitution there is a straightforward legal way to do this, but we will not selectively enforce our laws.”
Kuwait’s broad-based opposition movement held a series of public rallies last year calling for political reforms. Opposition mounted after the emir said in October he asked the government to change the electoral system to “bolster the democratic process” and safeguard national unity. The move sparked Kuwait’s most violent street protests.