An appeals court in Kuwait on Monday overturned the criminal convictions of three former members of parliament for criticizing the Emir, the nation's leader. The Kuwait Society for Human Rights [advocacy website, in Arabic] helped break the story [AFP report] internationally via Twitter, when its director posted a short statement regarding the acquittal. The three men were convicted in February of insulting Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah [official website] at a protest in October. As members of parliament, they initially spoke out against new election laws and several other issues dealing with flawed civil procedure. The same flaws they addressed later led to the dissolution of the parliament. The Kuwait government has not yet indicated if it will choose to appeal this decision to the supreme court.
Recent political unrest in the region has caused the Kuwaiti government to clamp down [Kuwait Times report] on online activists, with dozens of people serving sentences or awaiting trial on charges of insulting the Emir. A criminal court in Kuwait in June sentenced a woman to 11 years in prison [JURIST report] for remarks she made on Twitter. In April Kuwaiti opposition leader Mussallam Al Barrak was sentenced to five years after being arrested [JURIST reports] last October for criticizing the Emir in a public speech. Al Barrak was released on bail [JURIST report] soon after his sentencing. Al Barrak's speech was made during a boycott of a controversial election law passed [JURIST reports] last September that some believe the incumbent party can use to redistrict the country to its own advantage.