MPs request to meet Amir over tough jail sentences

Opposition lawmakers seek pardon – Speaker says no action until final verdict

KUWAIT: MP Mohammad Al-Dallal (left) hosts a meeting of 16 opposition lawmakers yesterday. — Photo by Fouad Al-Shaikh

KUWAIT: Opposition lawmakers yesterday decided to request a meeting with HH the Amir to discuss the shocking jail terms passed against 67 opposition figures and appeal to him to issue a general pardon for all the convicts. The decision came following an urgent meeting attended by 16 MPs, as Assembly speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem said that no action will be taken against the three convicted lawmakers until a final ruling by the court of cassation.

The harsh sentences by the appeals court on Monday sent shockwaves in political and legal circles amid calls for a comprehensive solution to the lingering political crisis in the country. The court overturned acquittals by the criminal court and passed jail terms on 67 people, including three current lawmakers, several ex-MPs and many activists for storming the National Assembly building in Nov 2011 during protests against the former prime minister.

Former MP and prominent opposition leader Musallam Al-Barrak, who left jail in April following a two-year imprisonment, was handed a fresh nine-year term. Two MPs, Waleed Al-Tabtabaei and Jamaan Al-Harbash, were handed seven years each and MP Mohammad Al-Mutair got one year.

Defense lawyers yesterday filed petitions challenging the rulings, while the public prosecution also demanded stiffer penalties for some defendants. The opposition lawmakers have decided to hold another meeting next week. MP Mohammad Al-Dallal, who hosted yesterday’s meeting, said the jail terms against leading opposition figures constituted a shock, adding that lawmakers in the meeting expressed their respect for the verdicts but stressed they were harsh. He said the lawmakers formed two teams – first to study options how to deal with the issue, and the second to follow up with the convicts and their families.

MP Mohammad Hayef said the verdicts were shocking and are likely to return the political crisis to square one, adding that those who supported the rulings represent only themselves and do not want the wheel of development to progress. He said the ruling takes the country back to the period before the opposition ended its boycott of elections, “as if we are at the beginning of the political crisis”.

Hayef called on the judiciary to keep itself away from political disputes and not to issue verdicts in political issues. He said that the judiciary should not enter this dark tunnel, stressing that entering the Assembly building is not a criminal offense. He said that the entire issue is a political one and the issue should have been resolved politically. Hayef criticized the interior minister for immediately forming a 40-member team from the ministry to arrest those convicted, saying he “remained asleep” after the verdicts against a pro-Iran cell.

Meanwhile, under 30 of those convicted have been arrested or gave themselves up to the police. They could be freed when the court of cassation starts looking into the case. Ghanem said that the Assembly will take no action against the three MPs until after the final verdict, adding that the lawmakers enjoy parliamentary immunity before the verdict but lose it after jail terms are passed. He said that no Assembly sessions will be held before the formation of the new government, adding that on some previous occasions, the formation of the Cabinet took longer. Opposition MP Abdulkarim Al-Kandari said yesterday that if the process of forming the new Cabinet will take longer, he will file to grill the prime minister.

By B Izzak

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