(New York) - A Kuwaiti judge ordered the release on bail on June 28, 2010, of the journalist and blogger Mohammad al-Jasim, Human Rights Watch said today. Al-Jasim, a well known government critic, faces criminal charges under Kuwait's state security law based on his blog postings and books critical of Kuwait's government, including members of the ruling family.
"Though al-Jasim is out of jail for now, the pending charges against him show that Kuwait's state security laws are being misused to stifle criticism," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The government should drop the charges against al-Jasim and focus on safeguarding freedom of expression."
Interior Ministry officers arrested al-Jasim on May 11 and held him for 49 days without obtaining the judicial order required to hold a suspect in pre-trial detention for longer than 21 days. Now released on bail of 2000 Kuwaiti dinars (US$6,850), the writer is to return to court on September 20 to defend himself against charges of "instigating to overthrow the regime," "slight to the personage of the amir [the ruler of Kuwait]," and "instigating to dismantle the foundations of Kuwaiti society."
Human Rights Watch has reviewed several of the postings upon which these charges are based, and found them to contain only peaceful government criticisms and calls to uphold democratic reform. Although certain restrictions on freedom of expression are permitted under international law, peaceful speech criticizing public officials is given special protection.