[JURIST] Kuwait’s Supreme Court on Monday upheld a 10-year jail sentence for a man accused of posting Tweets that insulted the Prophet Mohammed and the Sunni Muslim [BBC backgrounders] rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Hamad al-Naqi, a 24-year-old member of Kuwait’s Shiite minority, was also found guilty [AFP report] of spreading false news that undermined Kuwait’s image abroad. The Supreme Court’s decision is final and can only be commuted by the Kuwaiti Emir. An appeals court affirmed [JURIST report] Al-Naqi’s sentence in October. The result drew criticism from Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website], which condemned [HRW report] the decision as a “violat[ion] international standards on freedom of expression.” He has been in prison since his arrest in March 2012. He was originally sentenced in June 2012. Al-Naqi has maintained his innocence, arguing that his Twitter account was hacked.
Recent political unrest in the region has caused the Kuwait [BBC backgrounder] governments to clamp down on online activists. In June Kuwait’s Supreme Court upheld [JURIST report] the two-year jail sentence of an opposition online activist for writing Tweets found to be offensive to the country’s Emir, Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah [official website]. Last November Musaab Shamsah was sentenced to five years in prison [JURIST report] for insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a Twitter post. In June 2013 a criminal court in Kuwait sentenced a woman to 11 years in prison [JURIST report] for remarks she made on Twitter. In April of that year Kuwati opposition leader Mussallam Al Barrak was sentenced to five years after being arrested [JURIST reports] in October 2012 for criticizing the Emir in a public speech.