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Kuwaiti police fire tear gas at stateless demonstration

Hundreds of protesters demanding citizenship in the Kuwaiti town of Jahra are attacked with tear gas and police arrest eight, including journalists

AFP , Friday 16 Dec 2011
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Protesters stand on the table of the Speaker of Parliament after storming into Kuwait's parliament in Kuwait City, 16 November, 2011 (Photo: Reuters)
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Kuwaiti riot police used tear gas and water cannons on Friday to disperse hundreds of stateless protesters who were demanding citizenship and other basic rights.

The police attacked some 400 people who gathered following noon prayers in Jahra, 50 kilometers (31 miles) northwest of Kuwait City, raising Kuwaiti flags and banners reading: "We demand Kuwaiti citizenship."

Police arrested at least six stateless people, a journalist and a photographer of a local newspaper.

The assault came after the protesters refused to disperse, defying a police deadline to clear the area within 15 minutes. Security forces chased protesters to their nearby homes, while a helicopter hovered overhead.

The demonstration comes four days after a Kuwaiti lower began the trial of around 50 stateless people, locally known as bidoons, who were arrested during similar protests in February and March.

The men were charged by the court of illegal assembly with the intent to commit crimes and assault security forces. All the defendants denied the charges and said they committed no offence.

Under Kuwaiti law, only citizens have the right to hold public gatherings while foreigners are banned.

Kuwait launched a crackdown on the estimated 100,000 bidoons in 2000, depriving them of health care, education and jobs. The stateless claim they are Kuwaiti citizens who have been denied nationality.

The wealthy Gulf state, which considers bidoons illegal residents, has said that it is studying the issue of bidoons carefully and is prepared to grant citizenship to those deemed deserving.

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