|A number of large gatherings have been held in Kuwait City to protest for the release of al-Wasmi [Arab Times]|
A Kuwaiti court has extended the detention of a leading political activist on charges of “undermining the status” of the country’s emir.
Obaid al-Wasmi, a prominent Kuwait University law professor who has been in jail the last three weeks, remained in custody on Monday after the criminal court rejected a request by the defence team to release him and delay the hearing.
During the session, the court charged al-Wasmi with spreading false news abroad, taking part in a public gathering with criminal intent, and insulting Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, Kuwait’s ruler, his lawyer Al-Humaidi al-Subaie told the AFP news agency.
Al-Wasmi is also facing a charge of instigating the Gulf nation’s security forces to disobey government orders.
The academic’s first hearing was held behind closed doors with only lawyers allowed to attend.
“The judge (Adel al-Huwaidi) rejected a request by the defence team to release al-Wasmi and set January 17 for the next hearing,” al-Subaie said.
The academic could be jailed for a maximum of five years, said the lawyer, who claimed that al-Wasmi was beaten by police on his arrest.
Beaten by police
Al-Wasmi was arrested after giving a speech at a public gathering organised by the opposition on December 8 that was dispersed with force by the police.
Police had dragged al-Wasmi out of the house where the gathering was held and beat him with batons and kicked him as he lay on the ground, according to the lawyer.
Al-Subaie said as many as 280 Kuwaiti lawyers have volunteered to defend the academic.
International human rights groups have criticised Kuwait for using force to prevent public gatherings by the opposition.
Three opposition MPs have filed to question Sheikh Nasser Mohammed al-Ahmad al-Sabah, the prime minister of Kuwait, over the police attack.
Journalist ‘slander’ charge
The supreme court meanwhile failed to issue a verdict on Mohammad Abdulqader al-Jassem, a journalist and writer, who is serving three months in jail for slandering the country’s prime minister, Abdullah al-Ahmad, his lawyer, said.
Al-Ahmad told AFP that al-Jassem would remain in prison until a special judiciary committee reviews a petition filed by the prime minister’s lawyer requesting Nayef al-Mutairat, the supreme court judge, be changed.
No reason was given for the petition, but al-Ahmad described the move as “illegal and an attempt by the prime minister’s lawyer to obstruct justice.”
Al-Jassem was sentenced to one year in prison by the lower court, and later reduced to three months by the appeals court, for writing an article on his website deemed highly degrading of the prime minister.
Fifty-two regional human rights activists and academics issued a statement in December condemning “the excessive use of force against citizens and MPs” which threatened Kuwait’s democratic status in the region.
The activists regretted a “retreat in democratic reforms and human rights in the Gulf Cooperation Council states and many Arab countries.”