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Kuwait: More Twitter Users Arrested

Categories: Legal Threats, Kuwait
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Picture of tweep Hamad AlOlayan with his father and two kids after his release

2011 has been the year of defeat for online free speech in Kuwait as netizens have never been harassed as often as they have been in the past few months. Since last April, three netizens [2]were arrested and sentenced to jail for expressing their opinions online and the arrests’ wave has not stopped as two more twitter users got arrested recently and released within 24 hours after the raged reactions that these arrests created among citizens and parliament members. Hamad AlOlayan [3]and Tariq Al-Mutairi [4]are two netizens who have been actively tweeting in criticism of the Prime Minister and some of their recent tweets were seen as a violation of the constitutional 54th article that forbids making any remarks against the Amir as he is “the head of the state and is immune.” Both users have denied the accusations and said they were misinterpreted, yet they will still be interrogated due to a complaint submitted by the public prosecution, despite releasing them.

Many netizens objected and refused the way those twitter users were treated by authorities saying that there is no problem in calling them to court to question their statements and see whether they have violated the constitution or not, yet the arrests are illegal and violate freedom of speech which is a constitutional right for every citizen. Others thought one should never be questioned for expressing his opinion no matter what. The arrests have also made netizens demand a law that protects them from security authorities that are continuously violating their rights to free speech. Kuwaitis suggested that their authorities should accept criticism and work on reforms instead of trying to oppress those who demand change.

Parliament members did not miss this chance to object and use the arrests as one more card against the government.  Member of parliament Musalam Al-Barrak claimed that there is a Dubai-based company, owned by a Palestinian, which monitors Twitter activists and is paid by the prime minister’s office. He said the company sends reports to the Ministry of Interior on all what is tweeted on Prime Minister, Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah. A number of parliamentarians are now planning to quiz the interior minister over those arrests and they have condemned these acts as a violation of free speech suggesting that the government is abusing power to silence people. Tens of young men and women protested the following day after the arrests in front of the public prosecution's building and some parliamentarians showed up to this sit-in.  Youth, however, criticized the attendance of parliamentarians in this sit-in saying they are trying to take credit instead of working on a law that protects online free speech. Some twitter users found the reactions of some parliamentarians as useless because quizing the interior minister and attending a protest will not solve this on-going issue.