[JURIST] A court in Kuwait on Wednesday convicted 13 people of challenging the country’s ruler by reciting a speech from Musallam Al Barrack [Gulf News profile], a leading opposition figure. After giving a speech during an October 2012 anti-government protest, Barrack was arrested [JURIST report] for insulting leader Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah [official website]. Such criticism of the government is a crime under Kuwait’s constitution. Rallies were then held in protest, where copies of his speech were read aloud. This recitation resulted in the 13 arrests and Wednesday’s convictions. Each of the 13 individuals were sentenced to two years in prison.
Recent political unrest in the region has caused the Kuwait [BBC backgrounder] governments to clamp down on anti-government activists. In July, Kuwait’s Supreme Court upheld a 10-year jail sentence for a man accused of posting Tweets [JURIST report] that insulted the Prophet Mohammed and the Sunni Muslim [BBC backgrounders] rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. 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. 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 Al Barrack was sentenced [JURIST report] to five years after being arrested in October 2012 for criticizing the Emir in a public speech.