Kuwait opposition leader's prison sentence scrapped
Kuwait’s court of appeals on Monday overturned a five-year jail term against a prominent opposition leader.
The court has not however dropped the case against former lawmaker Musllam Al Barrak brought against him for allegedly undermining the status of the Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah in a speech he gave in October. The ex-MP, well-known throughout his years in the country’s parliament for his vociferous statements and sharp stances, reportedly deliberately broke long-held social taboos in the relations with the ruler.
The re-trial will open on June 9 to agree on the names of the witnesses. Al Barrak was in April sentenced to five years in jail for his “abusive” speech at the pinnacle of a bitter standoff between the government and the opposition over the amendment of the controversial 2006 electoral law.
The opposition, mostly conservative and tribal figures, said that the amendment that reduced the number of ballots a voter could cast from four to one was meant to ensure the election of a rubber-stamp parliament. The government argued that the “one voter, one vote” principle was adopted universally and that the amendment would also help address possible legal loopholes that had marred past elections. With the parliamentary elections in December, both sides sought support for their arguments and the opposition staged several rallies and demonstrations where leaders gave passion-filled speeches.
According to security forces and several political formations, the former lawmaker stepped over the limits traditionally accorded to the Emir. However, the ex-MP and his supporters denied the claim. The drama surrounding the case was intensified after Al Barrak refused to turn himself in to the police, arguing that he wanted to see the original arrest warrant and managed to remain out of prison until he appeared before the court of appeals to challenge the jail sentence.
The court suspended the sentence, but told him that he had to be physically present for the next trial session.
In their pleadings, his lawyers requested the court to send the case back to the lower court on the grounds that the five-year ruling was null and void after the judge ignored the defendant’s constitutional rights.