KUWAIT, : A Kuwaiti appeals court on Wednesday upheld a five-year prison term given to a man convicted of insulting the country’s emir, his lawyer said, the latest in a series of cases involving criticism of ruling authorities.
This year U.S.-ally Kuwait has penalised several Kuwaitis for remarks deemed offensive towards the emir, who is described as “immune and inviolable” in the constitution and shielded from criticism by the penal code.
The convicted man’s lawyer said the ruling against Kuwaiti Mohammad al-Mikhyal was “harsh” and did not take into account his mental health problems.
Lawyer Mohammad al-Humaidi said his client had been treated for mental illness since 1997 and “is not aware of his actions.” He told Reuters he would appeal to a higher court. While many of those convicted in the past were pardoned in July, in general dozens of Kuwaitis have been charged with insulting Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, especially on social media.
Kuwait allows more dissent than other Gulf Arab states but like in those countries, critical remarks about the ruler are a red line. International rights groups have urged the oil-producing country to amend its penal code.
The issue became particularly sensitive in Kuwait in October 2012 when Sheikh Sabah used emergency powers to change the voting system used in parliamentary elections in a way opposition politicians said was unfair.
Anger over the new voting system brought thousands onto the street, many openly criticising the emir’s decree.
They were some of the largest demonstrations in Kuwait’s history, although the wealthy country has avoided mass Arab Spring-style unrest and opposition groups are fragmented. (Reporting by Ahmed Hagagy, Writing by Sylvia Westall, Editing by William Maclean and Patrick Graham)