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Kuwait appeals court orders opposition chief retrial

Kuwait appeals court revokes five-year jail sentence for opposition leader Mussallam al-Barrak for insulting the Emir, orders retrial

AFP , Monday 27 May 2013
Kuwaiti lawmaker Musallam al-Barrak gestures while speaking to journalists at the parliament's media centre in Kuwait City, in this file picture taken November 20, 2011. (Photo: Reuters)
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Kuwait's appeals court Monday quashed a five-year jail term given to opposition leader and former MP Mussallam al-Barrak last month for allegedly insulting the emir and ordered a retrial, a defence lawyer said.

"The (appeals) court declared the lower court verdict against Barrak illegal and cancelled it. It also agreed to call witnesses in the next hearing," Mohammad Abdulqader al-Jassem told AFP.

The appeals court has said it will retry the case at a hearing set for 9 June, Jassem added.

The lower court handed Barrak the sentence on 18 April even after the defence team walked out of the trial when the judge refused to summon a number of dignitaries as witnesses.

Jassem said the defence lawyers have demanded that the court summon Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak al-Sabah, a senior member of the ruling family, as a witness in the case.

However, he said it was still unclear whether the appeals court will include the premier as a witness.

Barrak, a nationalist former MP, was sentenced to jail over remarks he made at a public rally on 15 October deemed offensive to the emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah.

The jail sentence sparked angry protests by opposition activists that turned into clashes with police which used tear gas and stun grenades, wounding several protesters in the process.

Kuwait has clamped down on activists and tweeters, with courts handing out sentences of up to 10 years in jail to those charged with insulting the emir.

The oil-rich Gulf country has been rocked by a bitter political crisis in recent months after the emir amended the electoral law in a move the opposition claims was unconstitutional.

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