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Cassation court frees opposition activists, MPs

KUWAIT: HH the Amir’s humanitarian act presents anew an example of how the ruler is aware of citizens’ and residents’ hardships and preoccupations. Moreover, he has represented Kuwait as a humanitarian center and a home of social and humanitarian solidarity by relieving the underprivileged. Echoing identical thoughts, Deputy Speaker Essa Al-Kandari said the latest initiative was registered in his record of humanitarian deeds, wishing the Amir lasting wellbeing.

Separately, the court of cassation yesterday freed around 67 opposition activists including three MPs and several former lawmakers after three months in jail for storming the National Assembly building over six years ago. After lengthy deliberations and hearings defense lawyers’ arguments, the court decided to suspend a ruling by the appeals court sending the activists to jail pending the final verdict of the court. The court also set March 4 as the date for the next hearing in the case that has attracted a lot of attention.

Prisoners, their relatives and supporters celebrated the decision in jubilant scenes in the jam-packed courtroom at the Palace of Justice. The large crowd sang the national anthem outside the courtroom as policemen tried peacefully to calm the crowds. Among those released were MPs Jamaan Al-Harbash and Waleed Al-Tabtabaei, who spent three months in jail, and MP Mohammad Al-Mutair, who arrived in Kuwait two days ago and gave himself up. They also included former MP and opposition leader Musallam Al-Barrak and leading former MPs Faisal Al-Muslim, Mubarak Al-Waalan, Salem Al-Namlan and Fahd Al-Khannah, among others.

In all, 70 opposition activists were tried for breaking into the National Assembly building in Nov 2011 following a protest against corruption and against a former prime minister, who resigned two weeks later. The criminal court acquitted all the defendants, saying they all had no criminal intention and that they were protesting against corruption. But the court of appeals – in a surprising ruling – convicted all the men of entering a public property and handed them harsh jail terms ranging from one to nine years. Barrak yesterday described the ruling as “oppressive”, because it did not hear the defense of the accused. The public prosecution told the court of cassation earlier this month that the appeals court ruling was incorrect.

Meanwhile, former MP Kamel Al-Awadhi yesterday lashed out at Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte for his inflammatory statements against Kuwait regarding the treatment of Filipino workers in the country. Awadhi, who served for years as the director general of the immigration department before becoming a lawmaker, said that the whole affair should have been resolved through diplomatic channels and not in public, especially since the alleged mistreatment concerns a number of individual cases only. He said Duterte should have visited Kuwait and personally seen the situation of Filipino workers before he issued strong statements to the media. Awadhi added statements about the abuse of a handful of workers are highly exaggerated.

By B Izzak and Agencies

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