Kuwait’s ruler has used the opportunity of Ramadan – the month of fasting associated with forgiveness – to pardon all those convicted of offending him.
The announcement on Wednesday is an apparent effort to help defuse political tensions after last week’s parliamentary elections in the Gulf nation.
“On the occasion of the last 10 days of Ramadan, I am pleased to issue an emiri pardon for those who have been handed jail terms on charges of insulting the emir,” Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah said in a televised speech.
The official Kuwait News Agency gave no further details.
There are several youth opposition activists serving various jail terms on charges of insulting the emir.
A number of other activists and former opposition politicians are on trial or have been convicted for similar charges following a government clampdown on dissent that began in October.
They include two women – one sentenced to 11 years, and the other for 20 months, for insulting the emir – who are appealing their sentences.
“Those who benefit from the emiri pardon are the ones who have been handed final verdicts by the court of appeals or the supreme court,” said director of Kuwait Society for Human Rights Mohammad al-Humaidi on his Twitter account.
“It does not include cases that are being heard [in lower court] now,” said Humaidi, himself a lawyer.
Meanwhile, the defence lawyer for opposition leader and former MP Mussallam al-Barrak said his client is not covered.
“The pardon does not cover Barrak’s cases because he has not been handed a final verdict. It also does not cover the case of storming parliament [in November 2011] nor people on trial for demonstrating,” Thamer al Jadaei said on his Twitter account.
Criticising the emir in Kuwait can carry a jail sentence of up to five years.