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Five lose Kuwaiti citizenship Twitter jail upheld

KUWAIT CITY, July 21, (Agencies): Kuwait on Monday revoked the citizenship of the owner of a pro-opposition television station and a newspaper, along with several other people, in an apparent crackdown on dissent.

In a statement issued after a cabinet meeting, the government said it was revoking the citizenship of Ahmad Jabr al-Shemmari, owner of Al-Youm satellite television and Alam Al-Youm newspaper, and all members of his family.

It took the same action against former Islamist opposition MP Abdullah al-Barghash, two of his brothers and his sister.

The measures come a week after the Kuwaiti government ordered a review of the citizenship of people who posed a threat to national security.

Monday’s statement gave no specific reasons for the action against Shemmari, a naturalised citizen.

But it noted that it was based on a provision in the nationality law that allows the authorities to revoke the citizenship of people who threaten the state.

Al-Youm and Alam Al-Youm have covered the activities of the opposition which has staged mass protests in the past two years, demanding fundamental reforms including an elected government.

Alam Al-Youm reported on Monday that the police had questioned its non-Kuwaiti staff and seized their passports.

The cabinet said the citizenships of Barghash and his relatives were revoked because they had been granted on the basis of false information.

Kuwait has a native population of 1.25 million, a large number of them through naturalisation, and hosts 2.8 million foreigners. Unlike other Gulf states, it has a democratically-elected parliament and has been tolerant to freedom of speech.

Former opposition MPs blasted the measure.

“Revoking citizenship from political opponents of the government is a grave mistake ... that will plunge the country into a serious political phase,” former Islamist MP Mohammad Hayef tweeted.

“It is a dangerous attitude through which the government is attempting to cover up corruption and fight reformists,” said Bader al-Dahum, another Islamist former MP.

The cabinet was also informed that the social affairs and labour ministry had closed down “scores of offices and branches” of non-profit organisations, including Islamic charities.

The statement gave no details on the organisations affected.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour is closely monitoring the activities of the public benefit societies to make sure they play a positive role for the development of the Kuwaiti society, Minister Hind Al-Sabeeh has said.

During the cabinet meeting on Monday, Al-Sabeeh reviewed the procedures taken by the Ministry to face any form of deviation from the targets of the public benefit societies as defined by law, as well as their basic system and purposes according to which they were granted licenses. She said that some of these societies have been closed down after they committed violations.

The cabinet weekly meeting was held at the Seif Palace under chairmanship of His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah.

During the meeting, the cabinet reviewed the speech by His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah on the occasion of the last ten days of the Holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in which he urged the international community to stop the Israeli aggression on Gaza, and called the Kuwaiti people, especially the youth, to work harder for their country’s future.

Twitter

Kuwait’s top court on Monday upheld a 10-year jail sentence for a Shiite Twitter user for insulting the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and his wife and companions.

Hamad al-Naqi, 24, was also charged with insulting Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and spreading false news that undermined Kuwait’s image abroad, the verdict said. The court’s ruling is final and can only be commuted by the ruler.

He has been in prison since his arrest in March 2012 for posting tweets deemed offensive to the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), his companions and Gulf leaders.

Naqi, a Shiite, denied the accusations, saying his Twitter account was hacked. He was first handed the jail term by the lower court in June 2012.

Human Rights Watch strongly criticised the sentence and urged authorities to immediately release him after the appeals court confirmed the sentence in October last year.

The New York-based rights watchdog said the ruling was another example of violations of the right to free speech in Kuwait.

During the past two years, Kuwaiti courts have given jail sentences to several online activists for various charges, mostly insulting the ruler through social networks.

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