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Blogger sentenced to ten years in prison

(ANHRI/IFEX) - 17 May 2012 - ANHRI condemns the sentence of 10 years in jail and a fine of 1000 Kuwaiti Dinars handed to Lawrence al-Rashidi, a Kuwaiti blogger, on charges of "insulting the Prince and his powers in poems uploaded on YouTube". ANHRI considers this ruling as evidence that freedom of expression in Kuwait has reached a new low.

The case began in June 2011, when the general prosecution accused al-Rashidi of "spreading false news and rumors about the situation in the country", "uploading visual and audio recordings prepared by him on YouTube", "calling for the demolition of values and ethics", and "calling on tribes to appoint a Prince of the country, demonstrate, confront the ruling regime, and bring down its transgressions". Al-Rashidi is also being tried because of his posts on Twitter, deemed by the authorities as "an insult to the princely identity".

It is worth noting that Article 54 of the Kuwaiti constitution stipulates that "the Prince is the head of state whose identity shall not be touched". This article contradicts international conventions on human rights that guarantee individuals' right to freedom of opinion and expression. International conventions also do not put anyone above the law or give him\her immunity against criticism.

"We are deeply disturbed over this cruel and shocking ruling. The campaign launched against activists in Kuwait is escalating. The Kuwaiti government is detaining bloggers and activists because they express their opinion on the Internet and use it in their discussions and exchange of information," said ANHRI.

ANHRI also stated that Kuwait has failed to adhere to its obligations of guaranteeing human rights and the rule of law, especially in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. The Kuwaiti government has detained a number of bloggers, the most prominent being Nasser Abel, a Twitter activist, because of expressing his opinion and solidarity with the Bahraini people, and Mohamed al-Melify, a writer and blogger. Draft laws restricting freedom of expression on Twitter and other websites are also being prepared.

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