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Kuwait court acquits 70 opposition members

A Kuwaiti court on Monday acquitted 70 opposition members of charges related to the 2011 storming of the parliament. At least nine of the acquitted were former members of parliament. The 2011 demonstrations over allegations of high-level corruption prompted Kuwaiti authorities to tighten security measures nationwide. At the time, opposition lawmakers sought to question then prime minister Sheik Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah [BBC backgrounder] regarding alleged financial wrongdoing. The opposition stormed parliament after it voted against questioning Nasser. Nasser was replaced by emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah [official website], who dissolved parliament and called for fresh elections after the storming. A defense lawyer for the opposition members praised the verdict and said that he hopes it will reignite and reunite the opposition. The verdict is subject to appeal by the prosecutor.

Recent political unrest in the region has caused the Kuwait and UAE governments to clamp down on online activists. Last month two citizens from Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) [BBC backgrounders] received prison terms for their Twitter [media website] posts, which were deemed to be insulting to Islam or in opposition to state security. 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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