The court on Saturday said Hamid al-Ali will serve the two years if he breaks the law again within the next three years. He was also ordered to pay 1000 dinars (US$3380) as a guarantee which will not be refunded if he breaks the law. 

The cleric, a former head of the strict Salaf religious movement, was charged with saying at a mosque in March that all Arab leaders were "traitors and losers". Although al-Ali did not mention the amir, Shaikh Jabir al-Ahmad al-Sabah, by name, the prosecution believes the ruler was included because he is one of those leaders. 

Al-Ali was also convicted of insulting "friendly countries," and
questioning the right of the amir to allow foreign military forces - mainly US and British - to use Kuwait as a launch pad for last year's war in Iraq. 

'Stiff sentence'

"This is a very stiff sentence," said the cleric's attorney, Usama al-Minawir. "He did not mention the amir ... his constitutional right to express himself and his religious opinions were taken away from him." 

The Amir of Kuwait: Shaikh Jabir
al-Ahmad al-Sabah

The lawyer said his client will appeal. 

Kuwait has been a major ally of Washington since the US-led 1991 Gulf War that liberated it from a seven-month Iraqi occupation ordered by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. However, many Islamists opposed last year's war in Iraq that deposed him, saying it was killing fellow Muslims, and there has been some violence against Westerners in the past. 

In April, the prime minister, Shaikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, told reporters the government had referred al-Ali to the prosecutor because he was teaching how to make explosives at a mosque. A newspaper had reported the cleric's Web site included instructions on bombmaking. 

No such accusations appeared in the trial.