The Kuwait Bar Association announced it has formed a 17-member team to defend a liberal university professor convicted of mocking Islam in his newspaper column.
The group, which includes several liberals and human rights activists, was the strongest sign of support for Ahmad al-Baghdadi since his conviction and sentencing last month to a one-year suspended prison sentence.
"The aim of the team was not just to defend al-Baghdadi as a person, but also to defend Kuwait and its image, as well as freedom of opinion and expression," said Ali al-Baghli, one of the lawyers on the team.
Last month, an appeals court convicted al-Baghdadi of ridiculing Islam and handed down the suspended prison sentence, overturning an acquittal by a lower court. It also ordered him to pay a 2,000-dinar (US$6,825) deposit, which would be forfeited if he commits the same offense in the next three years.
Al-Baghdadi is appealing the verdict to the higher Cassation Court.
Late last month he announced he would no longer write his column for Al-Siyasa daily newspaper and had given up his fight for freedom of speech in his country, which he said has become infested with the "germs and viruses of hatred and tyranny."
His latest legal battle - his second with religious extremists - stemmed from a 5 June, 2004, column in which he wrote that he sent his son to an expensive foreign school rather than a state school because he did not want "ignorant" teachers to teach him "how to disrespect women and non-Muslims." Wrong teachings could lead his son to terrorism, he said.
The appeals court ruled that the professor had made "derogatory" comments about Islam by linking terrorism and "backward thinking" to religious classes at state schools.