Human Rights Watch urges Kuwait to drop all charges against online activists
Kuwait's appeals court on Wednesday toughened the jail term of an opposition tweeter to five years for calling for a coup and insulting the emir of the Gulf state.
Bader al-Rasheedi was jailed on November 28 after the
lower court gave him a two-year term, but the appeals court decided to increase this to five years, director of the Kuwait Society for Human Rights Mohammad al-Humaidi told AFP.
Rasheedi was charged with instigating to overthrow the regime, spreading false news about the emirate abroad and writing tweets deemed offensive to the ruler of the OPEC member state, Humaidi said.
The tweeter has the right to appeal the sentence in the supreme court, where rulings are final.
In another ruling, the appeals court overturned a two-year jail term against stateless activist Abdulhakeem al-Fadhli and acquitted him from charges of organising protests and instigating stateless people to demonstrate.
Fadhli turned himself in two months ago to serve the jail sentence issued against him late last year in absentia.
Around 106,000 stateless, locally known as “bidoons,” live in Kuwait and claim the rights to citizenship. Authorities however insist only several thousands of them qualify to be naturalised while the rest hold other nationalities.
In a clampdown on opposition social network users and activists, Kuwait has already sentenced to various prison terms around 10 tweeters and former MPs for insulting the emir, while dozens are still on trial on similar charges.
The lower court two weeks ago sentenced opposition activist Sager al-Hashash to two years with immediate effect and handed Nasser al-Deehani a 20-month suspended term after they were charged with insulting the emir.
The opposition slammed the verdict as politically motivated.
Last month, the US-based Human Rights Watch said the rights situation in Kuwait deteriorated last year, with police using force to disperse protesters and launching crackdowns on online activists.
HRW also urged the authorities to drop all charges against online activists.
Criticising the emir is illegal in Kuwait and is considered to be an offence against state security.
The Kuwaiti opposition has staged regular demonstrations in protest at an amendment last year of the electoral law and subsequent December elections. It has also demanded the dissolution of parliament and new elections.