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Kuwaiti top court upholds 10-year term for tweeting oppositionist

Kuwaiti top court upholds 10-year term for tweeting oppositionist
A Kuwaiti activist has been sentenced to ten years in jail by the country’s top court, for using Twitter “to insult the emir and call for the overthrow of the regime”, Kuwaiti media stated. Three other activists received three years in prison each.

The opposition activist, Orance Al-Rasheedi, was accused of using the social networking sites Twitter and YouTube to publicly insult the emir, and spreading false news about Kuwait to undermine the oil-rich country's image, according to Al-Jarida newspaper.

The emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, is protected against any criticism by the constitution of Kuwait.

The lower court had sentenced Rasheedi in October 2011. The court of appeals upheld the decision last May before it was finally confirmed by Kuwait’s Supreme Court and can no longer be challenged.

Also on Tuesday a Kuwaiti court sentenced three former opposition MPs to three years in prison for insulting the emir in public, according to attorney Mohammad al-Jumia.

"The verdict against Khaled al-Tahus, Falah al-Sawwagh and Bader al-Dahum is three years each with immediate effect," wrote the lawyer on his Twitter account.

The verdict is not final and can be challenged in the court of appeals and the Supreme Court.

The former lawmakers were charged with undermining the status of the emir during an address at a public gathering on October 10, in which they warned that any amendment to the electoral law could lead to street protests.

In the past several months Kuwait intensified its control on internet activists, who allegedly violate the country's laws, especially since the opposition began to stage demonstrations and protests against amendments to the country’s voting rules. The opposition, in particular, has been challenging the government's decision to dissolve parliament and calling to cancel the results of the new legislative elections.

Several other activists have already been jailed and more are awaiting trial.

On Monday, opposition youth activist Mohammad Eid al-Ajmi received five years of imprisonment for ‘insulting’ the emir on social media.

Earlier in January, Ayyad al Harbi and Rashed al Enezi were sentenced to two years in jail each on similar charges of defaming the emir of Kuwait. Both prisoners are awaiting appeals court rulings. Though Enezi did not mention the emir by name in the tweet, the court said that it was clear who he intended to insult.

More verdicts are expected in the forthcoming weeks on charges similar to the most recent indictments, lawyer and director of the Kuwait Society for Human Rights Mohammad al-Humaidi believes.

The opposition won a majority in the parliamentary elections held in Kuwait in February 2012. In June the Constitutional Court dissolved the legislative assembly and put back to work the parliament of 2009, considered by many to be loyal to the authorities. But amid mass protests the emir had to dissolve that parliament as well. New parliamentary elections were held December 1, 2012 amid a boycott by the opposition and low voter turnout. Despite this, the electoral commission declared the vote valid.