Kuwait’s Supreme Court on Monday upheld the two-year prison sentence against activist Musallam al-Barrack [Gulf News profile] for insulting Kuwait’s ruler.Al-Barrack, a former lawmaker, was originally sentenced to five years in prison, but that sentence was later shortened on appeal to two years. The case against al-Barrack began [JURIST report] after he gave a speech in October 2012 in which he urged Kuwait’s ruler Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah “not to ‘drag the country into a dark abyss’ while charging that Kuwait risked becoming an autocratic state under new electoral laws.” In March 2013 a protest in Kuwait City consisting of hundreds of al-Barrack’s supporters became violent when they marched toward the parliament building. Police used batons against the protesters and arrested at least a dozen people. Al-Barrack was also arrested in 2014 after he revealed documents alleging large sums of illegal financial transfers were made to senior officials, including judges in Kuwait. After his arrest, more violent protests ensued. Al-Barrack’s lawyer stated that his client will surrender to authorities [AP report] once court paperwork is complete.
Throughout the years the Kuwaiti government has been criticized for restricting rights to assembly and for prohibitions of free speech in the country. In March Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported that riot police in Kuwait disbanded protests, arresting 16 protesters [JURIST report] who may be charged with attacking law enforcement officers and illegal gathering. In January Nabil al-Fadhl, a member of the Kuwait parliament, was charged with insulting [JURIST report] the honor of Kuwaiti society and history after making a comment in support of the legalized sale of alcohol. Also in January Kuwaiti authorities ordered the 10-day detainment of former lawmaker Saleh al-Mullah for tweets criticizing [JURIST report] the Gulf country’s leader and his support for Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi. Later that month a Kuwaiti appeals court upheld [JURIST report] a lower court ruling that sentenced a man to five years in prison for posting comments about the Gulf nation’s ruler on Twitter. A court in Kuwait last October convicted [JURIST report] 13 people of challenging the country’s ruler by reciting a speech by al-Barrak. In July 2013 Kuwait’s Supreme Court upheld [JURIST report] a 10-year prison sentence for a man accused of posting Tweets insulting the Prophet Mohammed and the Sunni Muslim [BBC backgrounders] rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.