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Middle East

Kuwait releases royals detained over tweets

Two members of ruling Al-Sabah family were arrested after writing tweets sympathetic to opposition groups.
Last Modified: 10 Nov 2012 15:19
Kuwaiti opposition groups have called for a boycott of the elections planned for December 1. [EPA/RAED QUTENA]

Kuwait has released two members of the Al-Sabah ruling family after holding them for two days allegedly over tweets
deemed critical of the government.

Sheikh Abdullah Salem Al-Sabah was released late on Friday, while Sheikh Nawaf Malek Al-Sabah was freed on Saturday afternoon.

"I asked them (police) to refer me to the public prosecution to defend myself from the horrifying accusations, but they insisted that I sign a pledge and they released me," Sheikh Abdullah said on Twitter.

Sheikh Nawaf's lawyer Khaled al-Suwaifan said on Saturday that his client was released but provided no details.

Sheikh Abdullah said he was questioned by the secret service police on accusations of insulting Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah and instigating against the regime.

He is the grandson of the emir's half-brother, the late Sheikh Abdullah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.

The two young royals have written tweets sympathetic to the Kuwaiti opposition, which has been organising protests against an amendment to the electoral law seen as a ploy to produce a pro-government parliament in a snap December 1 general election.

Young royal Sheikh Meshaal al-Malek Al-Sabah was detained for a few days in July for expressing political views deemed offensive.

Polls boycotted

Meanwhile, upcoming polls closed on Friday amid a total boycott by the opposition in protest over amendment of the disputed electoral law.

"Not a single opposition member has registered. This is a major success for the opponents," said Talal al-Kashti, director of Etijahat Studies Center, a private think-tank on local politics, especially elections.

As many as 387 hopefuls, including 15 women, filed nomination papers for the December 1 snap polls during the 10-day registration period, but 250 of them registered in the final two days amid opposition allegations of corruption.

Only 10 members of the 50-seat parliament elected in February registered.

The house was scrapped in a historical ruling by the constitutional court on June 20 which set the stage for the current political crisis.

"The next parliament will be entirely pro-government, toothless and with no real powers," Kashti said.

The opposition said it is boycotting the polls because the amended electoral law, claiming it allows the government to influence the outcome of the results and elect a rubber stamp parliament.

Under the previous law, Kuwaiti voters were able to choose up to four candidates, but that has now been reduced to only one.

The opposition vowed to continue its campaign against the election.

"After lower the curtain on the candidates registration play, its time for the (voting) boycott to bring the downfall of the illegitimate parliament," opposition figure and former Islamist MP Waleed al-Tabtabai said on Twitter.

The opposition plans to stage a large rally on Sunday to mark the 50th anniversary of the constitution and to protest against the electoral law.

More than 150 protesters and 24 police have been slightly injured at three demonstrations since October 21.

The upcoming election is the second this year and the fifth since mid-2006 as the oil-rich Gulf state has been rocked by ongoing political crises between parliament and the government led by the Al-Sabah ruling family.

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