Court acquits ex-MPs Sane bid for women

KUWAIT CITY, July 22: Kuwait’s appeals court on Monday acquitted three former lawmakers who had been convicted of insulting His Highness the Amir, one of the men’s assistant and a human rights lawyer said. The three opposition politicians — Islamists Falah Al-Sawagh and Bader Al-Dahum, and populist Khaled Al-Tahus — were arrested in October after making public comments ahead of a large opposition-led protest against a new voting system for parliamentary elections. They remained on bail after each being sentenced to three years in prison in February for undermining the status of the Amir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.

Mohammed Al-Humaidi, a lawyer who heads the Kuwait Society for Human Rights, and an assistant for Sawagh both said the sentences had been overturned. Kuwaiti courts do not comment on judgments.
The ruling comes ahead of a parliamentary election on Saturday, the sixth since 2006 in a country where constant political upheaval has held up investment and economic reforms.
Kuwait allows more political dissent than other states in the Gulf Arab region but the Amir is described as “immune and inviolable” in the Constitution and shielded from criticism by the penal code.
Kuwait has been taking a firmer line on politically sensitive comments made in public and on social media since a wave of street protests last year against the new voting system introduced by the Amir.
Opposition politicians had argued that the changes, which included reducing the number of votes per citizen to one from four, in effect put opposition candidates at a disadvantage.

The government said the changes brought Kuwait into line with other countries. Saturday’s election will take place under the new system, and prominent opposition politicians are boycotting it.
While the protest movement has dwindled, dozens of activists have been arrested on charges of insulting the head of state, similar to those brought against the former MPs.
In June, a Kuwaiti court sentenced a female teacher to a total of 11 years in jail for insulting the Amir, inciting regime change and insulting a religious sect.
Former MP and Third Constituency candidate Yaqoub Al-Sane has called on the government to correct statutes of Kuwaiti women and work for the implementation of women’s civil and social rights to guarantee her real existence in all places.

He said he is surprised that the percentage of women in senior positions does not exceed 12 percent in spite of the fact most of them are university graduates and some of them even post graduates.
He said there are many laws that need to be amended to conform with the new situations in the society “since the women now represent more than half the total population. This requires the government and its agencies to ensure women are given equal opportunities.”
He added, the government must also pay women salaries on par with men if she does the same work.
He also said he is surprised over women’s declining participation in politics since only eight women have filed nominations to contest the next parliamentary elections while in reality the number of female eligible voters is 233,619 as compared to 206,096 male. The women comprise 53.12 percent of the eligible voters.

On this social networking account, Al-Sane urged women to double their political participation and put across their issues in the Parliament.
He has promised to revise the issue of women’s civil and social rights and present a new law to involve all classes of Kuwaiti women so as to provide them a stable life.
For his part, former MP and Second Constituency candidate Abdul-Rahman Al-Jeeran has urged the government to give opportunity to the youths who have management and academic qualifications in senior positions at the state institutions and replace people who have spent more than 30 years in government service.
He said the only way for reforms in the state agencies is by pumping new blood and depending on the youths who have qualified scientific and academic certificates and abstain from favoritism.

By Abubakar A. Ibrahim and
Nihal Sharaf
Arab Times Staff and Agencies

By: Abubakar A. Ibrahim and Nihal Sharaf

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