Last updated: 23 November, 2011

Kuwait arrests activists for storming parliament

Kuwaiti police on Wednesday arrested around 20 opposition activists on charges of storming parliament and more activists plan to give themselves up voluntarily, their lawyer said.

“In the morning, police arrested an activist at the airport. Later, about 19 others handed themselves in and more plan to surrender voluntarily,” coordinator of the opposition defence team Al-Humaidi al-Subaie told AFP.

A crowd of some 250 supporters and relatives of the activists gathered outside the police headquarters east of Kuwait City and briefly clashed with riot police.

At least one person was slightly hurt and taken to hospital, witnesses said.

The arrested activists include former Islamist opposition MP Fahad al-Khanna and youth leaders. The detained activists will later be moved to the public prosecutor for questioning.

Subaie said that so far the public prosecutor has issued around 50 arrest warrants for opposition activists who stormed the parliament building last week after a rally and clashes with riot police.

Kuwait’s emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, on Sunday called the incident at parliament a “black day” for the oil-rich Gulf state and said that legal action will be taken against some 40 activists.

Subaie expected that more arrest warrants will be issued against other activists, but said that a large number have decided to surrender to police whether they are summoned or not.

“Right now, I am heading to surrender to police. They have called me for interrogation although I was not involved in storming parliament,” Mohammad al-Bulaihees, a youth leader, told AFP by phone.

“This is a deliberate government policy to arrest opposition youth activists in a bid to silence them,” he added.

Subaie said that around 100 activists plan to give themselves up to police under a campaign “Arrest us all,” launched by the opposition in protest against the arrests.

The emirate’s opposition launched the campaign aiming to change the prime minister and dissolve parliament following an alleged corruption scandal involving around 15 MPs.

The opposition has also accused Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, a senior member of the ruling family, of transferring public funds into his overseas bank accounts. The government has denied the charge.

The emir on Wednesday called in a statement for restraint and appealed to Kuwaitis to “unify ranks and refrain from division.” However, he also ordered the firm application of the law.

He also received a number of tribal chiefs who expressed their support for him.

Members of the opposition, which has the support of half of the 50-member parliament, have been staging huge rallies to press their demands. On Tuesday, government supporters staged a rally in support of the prime minister.

OPEC member Kuwait sits on about 10 percent of the global crude oil reserves and currently pumps around 3.0 million barrels per day.