Kuwaiti MP to be questioned over police violations

Ahram Online, Sunday 12 Dec 2010

Plans to question the Kuwaiti premier following a brutal police crackdown on a public gathering have been delayed to give opposition MPs enough time to read the appeal

Kuwaiti MPs
Kuwaiti MPs Mohammed Hayef Al-Mutairi (C) and Falah Al-Azmi (R) listen to deputy Walid Al-Tabtabae. (AFP)

Kuwaiti opposition MPs decided on Sunday to delay by one day plans to question Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah in parliament over a police crackdown on a public gathering, MP Mussallam al-Barrak said.

"Tomorrow (Monday) we will file a request to question the prime minister [a senior member of the Al-Sabah ruling family] on grounds that he undermined the dignity of the people and imposed restrictions on their freedoms," Barrak, spokesman for the opposition Popular Action Bloc, told reporters.

He said the delay was necessary to give around 20 MPs who support the move enough time to read the appeal's text.

Video footage of the night in question will be shown during the requested grilling session which will be the fifth against the prime minister and could lead to MPs filing a motion for non-cooperation. If the motion is passed, the Amir could then choose to replace the prime minister or dissolve the parliament.

Tensions have been mounting since the beginning of the current legislative round following a request by the Public Prosecution to lift MP Faisal Al-Mislim’s parliamentary immunity after he revealed details of a Burgan Bank cheque, which is considered a criminal offence.

Mislim may face charges for displaying confidential bank documents during a parliamentary questioning of the residing premier. Mislim accused the premier of bribing members of parliament in exchange for their political support.

Jumaan Al-Harbish, a Member of Parliament and host of the gathering in question, spoke to Human Right Watch explaining that approximately 50 people assembled at his home in Kuwait’s Suleibikhat neighbourhood for a forum called “Preserving the Kuwaiti Constitution.”

Ten MPs attended the gathering, as well as Kuwaiti journalists, lawyers and university professors.

An interior ministry spokesperson said on 9 December that security forces broke up the meeting because it violated the 1979 Public Gatherings Law. The law requires organisers of any gathering of more than 20 people to obtain a police permit in advance.

However, a 2006 court decision found these restrictions unconstitutional. The interior ministry spokesperson said that the ministry acted under instructions from the Amir of Kuwait, Sheikh Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. According to spokesperson, the Kuwaiti leader declared that gatherings should only be permitted inside the host’s home and that people should not congregate outdoors.

“Kuwait’s brutal breakup of a political meeting which included MPs and professors is a new low in the government’s refusal to respect the right to peacefully assemble,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The only threat to public safety was the behaviour of the security forces.”

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