Reporters Without Borders hails today’s decision by Kuwait’s supreme court to overturn lawyer and netizen Mohamed Abdel Qader Al-Jassem’s three-month jail sentence on a charge of defaming the prime minister, Sheikh Nasser Mohammad Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah. Arrested on 22 November, Jassem was freed as a result of the ruling, after serving 62 days of his sentence.
Jassem was convicted over an entry in his blog (www.aljasem.org) last November in which he accused the Iranian intelligence services of using a businessman close to the prime minister to meddle in Kuwait’s affairs. The original one-year jail sentence had been reduced to three months on appeal.
Reporters Without Borders welcomes Jassem’s release but points out that he continues to be the victim of judicial harassment and is due to appear in court again on 31 January on a charge of defaming the emir and spreading false information about Kuwait. Most of the cases brought against him have been the result of complaints by the prime minister.
23.11.2010 - Well-known blogger arrested after getting one-year sentence for defamation
Lawyer and netizen Mohamed Abdel Qader Al-Jassem was arrested at his home last night and taken to Kuwait City’s main prison to begin serving the one-year jail sentence that a court had passed on him earlier in the day on a charge of defamation. He was convicted for claiming in his blog (www.aljasem.org) in November 2009 that the Iranian intelligence services were using a businessman close to Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah to meddle in Kuwaiti affairs.
Al-Jassem had announced after the hearing that he intended to appeal. But the judge had already ruled that an appeal would not suspended execution of the jail sentence, and that Al-Jassem would have to begin serving it immediately.
A few hours before his arrest at around 8:30 p.m., his daughter, Sumayah Al-Jassem, had told Reporters Without Borders: “My father is at home, expecting to be arrested at any moment. He is clearly the target of a campaign orchestrated by the prime minister, who cannot stand any criticism. My father is the symbol of what the government can make people suffer when they dare to say what they think, when they dare to stand up to it. Such persecution does Kuwait’s image a great deal of harm.”
In all, more than 15 prosecutions have been brought against Al-Jassem, four of them by the prime minister. He has been acquitted in two of the cases (http://en.rsf.org/koweit-journalist-mohamed-al-jassem-28-06-2010,37826.html) and a third is currently under way. Today’s case is the fourth one brought by the prime minister.
A Kuwait City criminal court today meanwhile again adjourned – this time until 28 December – a case against Al-Jassem that was brought by Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmad, the son of Kuwait’s emir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. The court previously agreed on 20 September to a defence request for the emir’s son to appear in court to explain the reason for his lawsuit.
The emir’s son, who is minister of the royal court, sued Al-Jassem after he criticized government policy in his blog posts. The suit accuses him of “attacking the emir’s status” (http://en.rsf.org/kuwait-trial-of-mohamed-al-jassem-22-09-2010,38418.html).
Al-Jassem has been jailed twice in the past 12 months, most recently on 11 May, when he was convicted of “attacking national unity” and defaming the prime minister for criticizing the government in his blog. He was freed on 28 June, after 49 days in detention.
He was previously detained for 12 days at the end of 2009 at the headquarters of the criminal investigation department as a result of a libel suit brought by the prime minister on 2 September 2009 in connection with an article published in Alam Al-Youm on 16 August 2009 accusing the prime minister of encouraging religious tension in order to hold on to his job.