Kuwaiti opposition hold rally as leader freed

Musallam al-Barrak joined protesters hours after his release on bail, vowing to continue to press for political reform.

Former MP Barrak was released on Monday after being detained on July 2 for allegedly insulting the judiciary [AFP]

Kuwait City, Kuwait – Security forces have used tear gas for the fifth day in a row to disperse demonstrators joined by opposition leader Musallam al-Barrak hours after his release, signaling that tension gripping the country’s political scene is far from abating.

Officers fired smoke canisters at demonstrators on Monday in the Sabah al-Nasser district, south west of Kuwait City, who had gathered to demand the release of dozens of citizens arrested during days of rallies triggered by Barrak’s arrest.

Another group of protesters abandoned their rally in front of the criminal investigation unit in the capital after security forces threatened to use force.

Barrak, a former MP who was detained on July 2 for allegedly insulting the judiciary, was released on bail on Monday.

He accused top judges of being implicated in cases of corruption worth tens of billions of dollars, which he says were committed by members of the ruling family and former government officials.

Barrak was greeted with cheers by protesters who carried him on their shoulders.

Thousands of Barrak’s supporters had taken to the streets in peaceful marches to protest against his incarceration last week.

“We will remain in squares and in marches until all of Kuwait takes to the streets and not return home before the fall of the corrupt and their trial,” Barrak told his supporters.

RELATED: Kuwait opposition demands end to corruption

Demonstrators have been faced with tear gas canisters and stun grenades fired by security forces who have arrested protesters in a bid to quell dissent.

At least 40 people have been arrested since protests started... Security forces shot rubber bullets at nearby protesters, aiming at their torsos rather than their legs, in a blatant violation to legal procedures of dealing with rallies.

by Rana al-Sadoun,, Member of the National Committee for Monitor Violations

“At least 40 people have been arrested since protests started,” Rana al-Sadoun, a member of the homegrown National Committee for Monitor Violations, told Al Jazeera.

“Security forces shot rubber bullets at nearby protesters, aiming at their torsos rather than their legs, in a blatant violation to legal procedures of dealing with rallies.

“At least 100 violations were committed alone during Sunday’s protests,” added Sadoun, which were dubbed “The Nation’s Dignity 8”, in reference to a series of massive protests staged in 2012 and 2013.

Over the past few days activists have shared images and videos on social media of bleeding protesters and dense smoke covering protest venues, billowing from the canisters fired by security forces.

Al Jazeera contacted the Kuwaiti Ministry of Information who said they were unable to comment directly on the protests.

On Friday, a statement by the Ministry of the Interior, released on the official Kuwait News Agency, said it would take all “necessary measures against any signs of disturbance and violence”.

On Monday, the cabinet discussed what it described as “acts of lawlessness and accompanying sabotage, terrorising of citizens and destroying public property” as well as “the Ministry of the Interior’s legal proceedings in order to maintain security and safety of citizens”.

In a televised interview aired on the local al-Yawn channel, Adel Al-Hashash, the Director of Public Relations and Moral Guidance Department at the Ministry of the Interior, denied claims of rubber bullets being used against protests.

“The Ministry of Interior has repeatedly warned against illegal protests that are unauthorised,” Hashash said, adding that injuries had resulted from protesters escaping from sound bombs.

RELATED: Kuwait orders media blackout on ‘coup’ video

Addressing participants at Monday’s rally, Barrak said: “We have a long way ahead of us, and our movement won’t stop until the elected government, president by an elected premier, is achieved.”

Kuwait, a wealthy, oil-rich monarchy where a 50-seat parliament is elected by its citizens of over a million, has a potent opposition that is pushing for constitutional alterations that curb the ruler’s powers to appoint the prime minister from the ruling family.

Since 2006, the political scene in the country, a US ally, has witnessed repeated stalemates between the government and the opposition, which have won the majority of seats in several parliaments.

This has resulted in the formation of about a dozen governments, and the dissolution of six parliaments.

On June 27, Kuwait’s ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah called on his people not to jeopardise stability by playing “games” with politics, as the country was dragged into debates over scandals, including a tape of former officials allegedly plotting a coup.

“We do not have this luxury of differences and divisions, empty arguments and political games while catastrophes are right at our doorsteps,” Sheikh Sabah in the televised speech.

“Are we aware of what is happening not far from us?” he asked, in reference to neighbouring Iraq and Syria where swaths of land have been seized by armed fighters of the self-proclaimed Islamic State group.

“Now, more than ever, we need to close ranks and stand together to safely pass through these dangers which have swept and are sweeping those who are even stronger than us,” said Sheikh Sabah.

Follow Dahlia Kholaif on Twitter @Dee_Kholaif