Court confirms tweet sentence

KUWAIT CITY, May 14, (Agencies): Kuwait’s appeals court on Monday upheld a 10-year jail term for a tweeter found guilty of insulting the ruler and calling for the overthrow of the regime.

Orance al-Rasheedi was tried on charges of spreading false news about Kuwait to undermine the country’s image and calling for regime’s overthrow in video footage on YouTube, the court ruled.
It said he had also used the social networking site Twitter and YouTube to publicly insult HH the Amir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, who is protected against criticism by Kuwait’s constitution.
The lower court sentenced Rasheedi to 10 years in jail in October. He can still challenge the verdict before the Cassation Court whose rulings are final.

Kuwait has in the past several months clamped down on Internet activists who allegedly break the country’s laws, especially by committing religious offences.

The courts have already jailed several such activists and others are awaiting trial.

Meanwhile, Kuwaiti man charged with defaming the Prophet Mohammad on Twitter as well as insulting the rulers of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia will stand trial on May 21 and plead not guilty, his lawyer said on Monday.

The case of Shi’ite Muslim Hamad al-Naqi, who faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted, has caused an uproar in the country as, where dozens of Sunni Muslim activists and lawmakers have protested against his alleged crime in the streets. Some have called for him to be put to death.

Blasphemy is illegal under Kuwaiti law as is libel.

Naqi was arrested in March and charged with defaming the Islamic faith and the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), as well as his companions and his own wife on the popular micro blog. Prosecutors later charged him with insulting the rulers of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia on Twitter too.

Naqi has told police that he did not make any of the comments and that his account was hacked.

Earlier this month, lawmakers endorsed a legal amendment that could make such crimes - if committed by Muslims - punishable by death.

Naqi’s lawyer said the amendment should not affect his client however.

“The new law does not affect this case because it happened in the past,” his lawyer, Khaled al-Shatti, told Reuters. “The new law will only take effect in the future,” he said.

If Naqi is found guilty of endangering state security the maximum penalty he could face would be 10 years in jail, Shatti added.

Twitter is extremely popular in Kuwait. One million accounts were registered in the country of 3.6 million as of April, a two-fold rise in 12 months, according to Paris-based Semiocast, which compiles Twitter data.

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