Kuwait ‘frees’ royal tweeters ‘Lift ban on protests’

KUWAIT CITY, Nov 10, (AFP): Kuwait has released two members of the Al-Sabah ruling family after holding them for two days allegedly over tweets deemed critical of the government, they said on Twitter Saturday.

Sheikh Abdullah Salem Al-Sabah was released late on Friday, while Sheikh Nawaf Malek Al-Sabah was freed on Saturday afternoon.

“I asked them (police) to refer me to the public prosecution to defend myself from the horrifying accusations, but they insisted that I sign a pledge and they released me,” late Friday, Sheikh Abdullah said on Twitter.

Sheikh Nawaf’s lawyer Khaled Al-Suwaifan said Saturday that his client was released but provided no details.

Sheikh Abdullah said he was questioned by the secret service police on accusations of insulting HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah and instigating against the regime.

He is the grandson of the Amir’s half-brother, the late Sheikh Abdullah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.

The two young royals have written tweets sympathetic to the Kuwaiti opposition, which has been organising protests against an amendment to the electoral law seen as a ploy to produce a pro-government parliament in a snap Dec 1 general election.

More than 150 protesters and 24 police have been injured in demonstrations since Oct 21 and the opposition plans another rally on Sunday.

Young royal Sheikh Meshaal Al-Malek Al-Sabah was detained for a few days in July for expressing political views deemed offensive.

Human Rights Watch called on Saturday for Kuwait to revoke a ban on demonstrations and respect the people’s right to peaceful assembly.

“Kuwait’s authorities should revoke (a law) ... to ban all demonstrations because it denies the right to peaceful assembly,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at New York-based HRW.
“The government has an obligation to respect the right to gather peacefully regardless of whether demonstrators support or oppose its policies.”

More than 150 protesters and 24 police have been slightly injured at three demonstrations since Oct 21 held to protest a decree by the Amir to amend the electoral law.

“If force is required to quell violence by protesters it should be the absolute minimum necessary to protect lives and property,” Stork said.

“The right to peaceful assembly is enshrined in the constitution Kuwaitis will be celebrating... Authorities should lift the ban and permit people to express their views,” he said.

Kuwait’s government marked on Saturday the 50th anniversary of its constitution, with a display of fireworks. The opposition will celebrate on Sunday with a massive rally.

The opposition has been protesting the amendment to the electoral law they say amounts to a coup against the constitution because it allows the government to influence the outcome of parliamentary elections set for Dec 1.

It is boycotting the election, and no one from among its ranks has registered to run for office. It has been urging people not to vote.

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