A Kuwaiti court has sentenced the main opposition leader and former MP Mussallam al-Barrak to five years in prison after he was convicted of allegedly insulting the emir.

The ruling is null and void because it violated the legal procedures

Abdullah al-Ahmad,
Defendant's lawyer

Barrak, a nationalist, was charged on Monday with making statements deemed offensive to the ruler of the Gulf state, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah.

At a public rally on October 15, he appealed to the emir to avoid "autocratic rule".

Criticising the emir is a crime that carries a maximum of five years in jail.

"The court has sentenced the defendant Mussallam al-Barrak to five years in prison with immediate effect," said judge Wael al-Atiqi in a half-packed courtroom in the Palace of Justice in the capital Kuwait City.

One of Barrak's lawyers, Abdullah al-Ahmad, said "the ruling is null and void because it violated the legal procedures and for failing to provide the defence team with sufficient guarantees."

"We will appeal against the ruling in the appeals court," he told AFP news agency outside the courtroom said.

Opposition threats

Last week, Barrak's defence team walked out of court after the judge refused requests to hear defence witnesses who included the Kuwaiti prime minister, two former opposition MPs and others.

Verdict against Mussallam al-Barrak was issued amid tight security inside and outside the Palace of Justice [EPA]

Barrak had asked Atiqi to postpone the trial until he finds a new lawyer, but the judge refused and insisted he would proceed with the case on Monday.

The verdict was issued amid tight security inside and outside the Palace of Justice.

The verdict comes two days after the Kuwaiti opposition threatened it would stage street protests and could even call for civil disobedience if Barrak was denied a fair trial and jailed.

The opposition leader was detained for four days in late October and released on bail. He is also facing trial on several other counts including charges of storming parliament and taking part in protests.

Several opposition tweeters and former MPs have been sentenced to jail terms on charges of insulting the emir. 

Kuwait's opposition has been staging protests to demand the dissolution of parliament elected last December on the basis of an electoral law that had been amended by the emir.

The opposition claims that the change is illegal and is aimed at electing a rubber stamp parliament.

Source: Agencies