Top court jails activist over protest – Comoros ready to take Kuwait stateless

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KUWAIT CITY, May 16, (AFP): Kuwait’s supreme court on Monday upheld a one-year jail sentence against leading stateless rights activist Abdulhakeem Al-Fadhli and five others for demonstrating.

The six men were convicted of illegal assembly, defying orders and assaulting police, according to the court ruling which also states they will be deported from the oil-rich Gulf state after serving the jail term.

They were arrested in 2014 after taking part in a protest to demand Kuwaiti citizenship and other basic rights by stateless people, locally known as Bedouns.

In January 2015, a lower court jailed him to one year in prison but suspended the sentence to allow higher courts to review the case.

The appeals court later confirmed the sentence which was upheld Monday by the supreme court.

Fadhli was arrested again last month while taking part in a political rally and jailed.

The human rights activist has been detained several times for taking part in pro-stateless activities.

Bedouns were born and raised in Kuwait and claim the right to Kuwaiti citizenship.

But the government says only 34,000 of an estimated 110,000 stateless qualify for consideration and that the rest hold other nationalities.

Dozens of Bedouns and their Kuwaiti supporters were arrested for taking part in protests staged between 2011 and 2014 to press for resolving the decades-old problem.

Some of the detainees were acquitted while others were jailed.

External Affairs Minister of the African island nation of Comoros Abdulkarim Mohamed was quoted by Kuwaiti press on Monday as saying that his country was ready to consider taking Kuwait’s Bedouns.

“If the issue is raised officially, we are ready to discuss it,” visiting Comorian External Affairs Minister Abdulkarim Mohamed said, when asked if his country was ready to receive Kuwait’s stateless, known as Bedouns.

“Yes, it is something we are ready to do if officially requested by the Kuwaiti government,” he said, cited by Al-Anba newspaper.

In November 2014, interior ministry assistant undersecretary Major General Mazen Al-Jarrah said those Bedouns not granted citizenship could be given permanent residence if they agreed to take Comorian economic citizenship.

Those who accepted the offer would be given a series of incentives, including free education and health care, and the right to work, he said.

The impoverished Comoros consist of three islands in the Indian Ocean off the coast of east Africa with a population of just under 800,000 people, nearly all of them Sunni Muslims.

Despite the country’s distance from the Middle East and North Africa, it is a member of the Arab League as well as the African Union.

Several years ago, the Comoros offered thousands of Bedouns in the United Arab Emirates citizenship in exchange for generous aid in a deal similar to the Kuwait proposal.

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