KUWAIT CITY, Sept 8, (Agencies): Kuwait’s former Minister of Justice says the amnesty granted by HH the Amir to prisoners will not include the former MP Musallam Al-Barrak who was sentenced for two years imprisonment last June.
Al-Barrak was initially sentenced to five years in prison for insulting the Amir in a speech he gave in October 2012, although he insisted his remarks addressed to the country’s ruler were assured under freedom of expression, a claim that his supporters clamored to highlight. “I have never insulted the Amir,” Al-Barrak later argued. “I wanted to draw attention to some facts in the country,” he added.
However, the authorities held that his unprecedented vituperative attack had gone against Kuwaiti values. His trial and his subsequent fugitive status after he failed to show up to serve the term riveted attention in the country.
The Cassation Court, the highest court in the country, in May 2015 upheld the two-year jail sentence but Al-Barrak, who had been on bail, failed to report to the competent authorities. He was arrested in June after a security team raided a farm where he was attending a dinner reception. Nonetheless, “The pardon does not include our brother Musallam Al-Barrak because the cases related to state security are not covered by the Amiri amnesty. This is a sure thing,” Nayef Al Ajmi posted late Wednesday on his Twitter account where he has more than 210,000 followers, according to Gulfnews.com.
On Tuesday, Kuwait’s His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al- Sabah announced an amnesty for some prisoners, waiving the remainder of their jail terms. HH the Amir also ordered commuting the sentences being served by some convicts, the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported, quoting the Acting Deputy Amiri Diwan Minister Khalid Boodai. The amnesty was announced on the occasion of Eid Al-Adha, which is to be celebrated next week.
Boodai did not give out names of any prisoners pardoned and speculation has been rife in Kuwait on whether Al-Barrak would be among those released. Reports, mainly on social media, contended that he was among those who would benefit from the amnesty, but no official statement confirmed or denied the claims. Against the backdrop of social upheaval in some Arab countries and the risk of instability in the region, Al-Barrak’s wild attacks heightened the risk of a political deadlock in the country.
The dissolution of the Parliament elected in February 2012 — which was dominated by Islamists and tribal figures — in June 2012 accentuated the stalemate between the Government and some of the lawmakers who had been pushing for changing the political status-quo in the Arabian Gulf nation. The situation was compounded by the amendment of the controversial 2006 electoral law that slashed the number of candidates a voter could elect from four to one, prompting the opposition, keen on garnering votes en bloc from the tribes and the Islamists, to claim it was a move to curb its growing influence and to ensure the election of a rubber-stamp Parliament.
However, the Government maintained that it had only sought to align the country in line with international practices and address a loophole in the election process ahead of the parliamentary elections in December.
In October 2012, Al-Barrak, one of the most prominent leaders who opposed the amendment to the electoral law and the new elections, gave a speech at a rally that sent shock waves across Kuwait. The rally saw Al-Barrak directly challenge HH the Amir’s authority.
He was hailed by his supporters but drew strong condemnation from several quarters for using the situation to score political brownie points to serve his political ambitions. Al-Barrak was subsequently summoned by the authorities for insulting the Amir. He showed up at the trial and was sentenced to five years in prison.
However, Al-Barrak, in a rare show of defiance, refused to turn himself in to the police or to allow them to arrest him until he was shown the original arrest warrant, effectively managing to remain out of prison until the court of appeals reviewed his case on April 22, 2013, amid tight security and against the dramatic background of his supporters openly cheering him while his opponents condemned his actions in no uncertain terms.
The case gave lawmakers who resented Al-Barrak’s attitude a handle to put pressure on the interior minister whom they accused of failing to treat him like an ordinary citizen by apprehending him. The lawmakers also threatened to grill the interior minister over the issue, highlighting sharp divisions in the country over the case. The judge ruled to allow Al-Barrak to remain out of prison on a bail of KD 5,000 but insisted that he should present himself before the court in May. He was then sentenced by the highest court and imprisoned a month later.