Last updated: 22 April, 2013

Kuwait appeals court bails opposition leader

Kuwait’s appeals court on Monday granted opposition leader Musallam al-Barrak bail as it began examining his five-year jail term for insulting the emir, a lawyer said.

Former MP Barrak appeared in court although he had refused to turn himself in to police over the past week, insisting that he first be shown the original arrest warrant.

“Judge Anwar al-Anzi has decided to freeze the application of the five-year jail term, and released him with a bail of 5,000 dinars ($17,532),” Dokhi al-Hasban told AFP.

“We believe this is a positive indication … The decision is also a proof that the judiciary in Kuwait remains independent and has not been affected by the events,” Hasban said.

The judge adjourned until May 13 the hearing which was held amid tight security measures with hundreds of the elite special forces deployed around the courts complex in the capital.

Dozens of Barrak supporters sang and danced in jubilation outside the main gate of the court complex after the decision was announced.

During the hearing, Barrak again denied the charges that he had insulted the ruler at a public rally, insisting that “if time goes back,” he would repeat the same remarks.

Supporters carried Barrak as he came out of the gate chanting, “Barrak, you are the conscience of the whole nation.”

“Today the (protest) movement and the nation have emerged victorious … and we will celebrate this victory,” Barrak told opposition activists.

Barrak, a nationalist former MP, was sentenced to jail on April 15 over remarks he made at a public rally on October 15 and deemed offensive to the emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.

On Wednesday, riot police fired tear gas and stun grenades at thousands of opposition activists who marched on a police station near Barrak’s house to protest a bid by elite special forces to raid the home of the opposition leader.

Kuwait has clamped down on opposition activists and tweeters with court sentencing around 10 to several years in jail each on charges of insulting the emir.

The Gulf country has been rocked by a bitter political crisis over the past several months after the emir amended the electoral law in a move the opposition claims was unconstitutional.