Kuwait courts keep academic, writer in jail

KUWAIT CITY, Omar Hasan- Kuwaiti courts on Monday kept two leading activists detained on charges of undermining the emir and premier, a day ahead of a crucial showdown between opposition MPs and the government.
The criminal court extended the detention of Obaid al-Wasmi, a prominent academic and constitutional expert, as it opened his trial on charges of undermining the status of the Gulf state's ruler, his lawyer said.

The Kuwait University law professor's first hearing was held behind closed doors with only lawyers allowed to attend, Al-Humaidi al-Subaie told AFP.
"The judge (Adel al-Huwaidi) rejected a request by the defence team to release Wasmi and set January 17 for the next hearing," the lawyer said.
During the session, the court charged Wasmi with spreading false news abroad, taking part in a public gathering with criminal intent, and undermining the status of Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, the lawyer said.
Wasmi is also facing a charge of instigating the armed forces to disobey orders.
The academic could be jailed for a maximum of five years, said the lawyer, who has charged that Wasmi was beaten by police on his arrest.
Subaie said as many as 280 Kuwaiti lawyers have volunteered to defend the academic, who has been held for the past three weeks.
The supreme court meanwhile failed to issue a verdict on journalist and writer Mohammad Abdulqader al-Jassem who is serving three months in jail for slandering the prime minister, his lawyer said.
Abdullah al-Ahmad told AFP Jassem would remain in prison until a special judiciary committee reviews a petition filed by the premier's lawyer requesting supreme court Judge Nayef al-Mutairat be changed.
No reason was given for the petition, but Ahmad described the move as "illegal and an attempt by the prime minister's lawyer to obstruct justice."
Jassem was sentenced to one year in prison by the lower court which was reduced to three months by the appeals court for writing an article on his website deemed highly degrading of the prime minister.
Wasmi was arrested after giving a speech at a public gathering organised by the opposition on December 8 that was dispersed with force by the police.
Police had dragged Wasmi out of the house where the gathering was held and beat him with batons and kicked him as he lay on the ground, according to the lawyer.
International human rights groups have criticised Kuwait for using force to prevent public gatherings by the opposition.
Fifty-two Gulf human rights activists and academics issued a statement on December condemning "the excessive use of force against citizens and MPs" which threatened Kuwait's democratic status in the region.
The activists regretted a "retreat in democratic reforms and human rights in the Gulf Cooperation Council states and many Arab countries."
Special forces used batons to disperse the gathering organised by the opposition to protest what they said was a government plot to amend the 1962 constitution in order to suppress public freedoms.
Three opposition MPs have filed to question Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammed al-Ahmad al-Sabah over the police attack.
The grilling of the prime minister is set to take take place on Tuesday. It could lead to a motion of non-cooperation with the government which requires the signature of 10 MPs.

Monday, December 27th 2010
Omar Hasan

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