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(Kuwait City) – Kuwait’s Court of Appeal released a former member of parliament on bail on April 22, 2013, in his appeal of a five-year sentence for insulting the emir.

The court held its first hearing in the case of Mussalam al-Barak, whom a lower court sentenced to five years in prison on April 15 for insulting the emir. The court stayed the lower court’s verdict, pending the full hearing of the appeal on May 13, and released al-Barak on KD 5,000 (US$17,519) bail.

Two Kuwaiti judges, Anwar al-Anizi and Adel al-Huwaidi, and an Egyptian judge, Ahmed Abadha, presided over the hearing, which Human Rights Watch attended. Four of al-Barak’s lawyers – Mohammed al-Jassem, Doukhy al-Hasban, Walid al-Jarree, and Thamer al-Jidai – said at the hearing that the lower court had not admitted his defense lawyers to the courtroom during the trial, and that as a result, al-Barak did not have any legal representation during this trial.

They also said that the statement that allegedly insulted the emir, “Your highness, we will not let you rule autocratically,” was a valid form of political expression and that he should not have been prosecuted as a result.

“It’s good that the court released al-Barak on bail but the prosecutors should never have brought these charges in the first place,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Every Kuwaiti has a right to express views critical of the government, even if the emir thinks these views are insulting.”

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