A Kuwaiti court has sentenced an online journalist to prison for supposedly insulting the ruling family on social media, according to news reports. Ayyad al-Harbi was ordered to begin serving the two-year jail sentence immediately, news reports
Police arrested al-Harbi on November 13 in connection with a series of posts he made to his personal Twitter account, starting in October, in which he criticized the government and called on authorities to stop oppressing Kuwaiti citizens,
according to news reports.
Al-Harbi's lawyer, Mohammed al-Humidi, said the journalist would be appealing, according to news reports.
Al-Harbi wrote opinion pieces for Sabr, a Kuwait-based independent website that publishes news and commentary. He wrote extensively about local issues including corruption and freedom of speech in the run-up to the December parliament election.
He has also written articles that have called on the Shia minority to revolt against corruption and criticized the government in connection with their attitudes on freedom of speech and women's rights.
Al-Harbi wrote a post on Twitter on January 6, accusing the government of corruption. The same day, he posted a prediction on Twitter, in which he said he would be indicted in the coming days for insulting the Alsabah ruling family, the same fate
met by Kuwaiti opposition activist Rashed al-Anzi, who had been convicted on the same charge the day before.
CPJ is alarmed by the prison sentence handed to Kuwaiti journalist Ayyad al-Harbi, said Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Sherif Mansour. We urge the Kuwaiti appellate court to reverse this conviction and uphold the nation's
commitment to freedom of expression.
On March 31, Hamad Al Khalidi was sentenced to two years in prison by a Kuwaiti lower court for insulting the Emir of Kuwait on Twitter. He has already begun serving his sentence, though his attorneys plan to file an appeal on April 8.
Al Khalidi personally announced the sentence via Twitter:
Because of my opinions I'm sentenced to two years imprisonment with forced labour!
Al Khalidi is one of dozens of opposition activists and former MPs who have either been sentenced to various jail terms or are on trial on similar charges...More than a dozen youth activists and former MPs have so far been handed down jail terms
following a clamp-down on opposition social network users and activists. Criticising the emir is illegal in Kuwait and is considered to be an offence against state security.
A teacher in Kuwait has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for tweets that insulted the country's ruler and encouraged his overthrow.
Huda al-Ajmi received the longest known sentence for online dissent in the Gulf state, according to Kuwaiti opposition groups.
She reportedly faced three separate charges that included insulting the Emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, which carries a one-year sentence in itself. The other two five-year prison terms were given for inciting rebellion against the regime
and violating laws on public discussions.
Kuwait has not seen the same scale of pro-democracy uprisings as other Arab states but dozens of people across the Gulf region have been sentenced to jail for Twitter and blog posts in the past year.
Ms al-Ajmi will be able to appeal her three sentences.