Dubai, Jan. 7 (Reuters): A Kuwaiti court sentenced a man to two years in prison on Monday for insulting the country’s ruler on Twitter, his lawyer said. The convict is the second person to be jailed for such an offence in as many days.
The US-allied Gulf Arab state has clamped down in recent months on political activists who have been using social media websites to criticise the government and the ruling family.
Kuwait has seen a series of protests, including one on Sunday night, organised by the Opposition since the ruling emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, used emergency powers in October to change the voting system.
The court sentenced Ayyad al-Harbi, who has more than 13,000 followers on Twitter, to the prison term two months after his arrest and release on bail.
Harbi used his Twitter account to criticise the Kuwait government and the emir. He tweeted on Sunday: “Tomorrow morning is my trial’s verdict on charges of slander against the emir, spreading of false news.”
His lawyer, Mohammed al-Humidi, said Harbi would appeal against the verdict. “We’ve been taken by surprise because Kuwait has always been known internationally and in the Arab world as a democracy-loving country,” Humidi said . “People are used to democracy, but suddenly we see the constitution being undermined.”
On Sunday, Rashid Saleh al-Anzi was given two years in prison over a tweet that “stabbed the rights and powers of the emir”, according to the online newspaper Alaan. Anzi, who has 5,700 Twitter followers, was expected to appeal.
Kuwait, a US ally and major oil producer, has been taking a firmer line on politically sensitive comments aired on the Internet.