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Kuwait, UAE citizens receive prison terms for Twitter posts

Two citizens from Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) [BBC backgrounders] received prison terms on Monday for their Twitter [media website] posts, which were deemed to be insulting to Islam or in opposition to state security. Musaab Shamsah, a Kuwait citizen, was sentenced to five years in prison [AP report] for insulting the Prophet Muhammad, while Waleed al-Shehhi, a UAE state worker, was sentenced to two years for his posts from May regarding the trial of 94 people suspected of having ties to an Islamist faction. In July 69 of 94 of the UAE citizens charged were subsequently found guilty for planning an Islamist coup [JURIST report]. Waleed al-Shehhi's posts about the trial were deemed as an attempt to undermine the UAE's ruling system. It is currently unclear whether either convicted individual will appeal his ruling.

Recent political unrest in the region has caused the Kuwait and UAE governments to clamp down on online activists. In October an appeals court in Kuwait affirmed a 10-year prison sentence [JURIST report] against Twitter commentator Hamad al-Naqi for posts deemed offensive to Islam. In June a criminal court in Kuwait sentenced a woman to 11 years in prison [JURIST report] for remarks she made on Twitter. In April Kuwati 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. In July 2012 prominent human rights lawyer and al-Islah member Mohammed al-Roken, along with his son and son-in-law, were all detained [JURIST report] in the UAE just a few days after the arrest of another prominent human rights lawyer, Mohammed Mansoori. In April of the same year, rights groups called on the UAE to stop the recent crackdown [JURIST report] on political activists by ending arrests and releasing those already in custody, expressing concern that the UAE is threatening to revoke prisoners' citizenship as a way of punishing them for expressing public dissent.

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