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Kuwait opposition leader accused of criticizing regime released on bail

Kuwait's court of appeals on Monday released opposition leader and former MP Mussallam Al Barrak [Gulf News profile] on bail. The trial has been adjourned [Gulf News report] until May 13. Barrak was sentenced [JURIST report] last week to five years in prison for criticizing Kuwaiti Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah [official website], which is a crime under Kuwait's constitution. The lawyers for Barrak requested additional time to prepare arguments, and expressed concern for Barrak's life if he was to be incarcerated. Barrak has denied the charges of criticizing the regime, but not his statements during a political rally last October. An arrest warrant was issued for Barrak last week, but he has so far managed to avoid arrest, despite the efforts of police and security forces.

The political controversy surrounding Barrak has led to political unrest [FP report] in Kuwait, marked by mass protests. Barrak was arrested [JURIST report] in October after a public speech was found to contain remarks detrimental to the "social and political balance of the country." The remarks came during a boycott movement led by Barrak against a controversial election law [AP report] that the opposition claims is illegal and will establish a rubber stamp parliament. Kuwait's constitutional court upheld [JURIST report] the election law in September. In August, leaders of the political opposition in Kuwait criticized [JURIST report] the government's efforts to change the country's election law through the Constitutional Court, saying the government was attempting to seize power through the court in violation of the constitution.

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