Kuwait’s lower court on Monday acquitted 70 opposition activists including nine former MPs of charges of storming the parliament building in the oil-rich Gulf state two years ago.
“All the defendants were found not guilty” of charges of storming a public building, assaulting police, resisting orders and damaging public property, in the ruling by judge Hisham Abdullah.
Hundreds of opposition activists entered the seaside building in Kuwait City on November 16, 2011 after a noisy protest to demand the removal of then-prime minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, over corruption allegations.
Sheikh Nasser resigned two weeks later and a new government was formed, after which the emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, dissolved parliament and called fresh polls.
Opposition activists rejoiced Monday’s ruling immediately after it was announced, filling social networks, especially Twitter, with comments and congratulations.
Prominent opposition leader and former MP Mussallam al-Barrak celebrated the acquittals at his residence, just southwest of Kuwait City, along with dozens of activists by holding up four fingers, a salute adopted by supporters of Egypt’s deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
“Thank God for this ruling. We are very satisfied,” said Mohammad al-Humaidi, director of the Kuwait Society for Human Rights who had defended a number of the activists.
“All Kuwaitis were waiting for this verdict … which is so crucial for the future of the country,” Humaidi told AFP.
He said that during the trial, which continued for around 20 months, defence lawyers had argued that the defendants had no criminal intent when they entered parliament.
“It was a protest against corruption by the state,” he said. In addition, there were contradictions in the testimonies of witnesses.
Over the past two years, Kuwait has seen a large number of demonstrations against the government that some experts say are partially influenced by the Arab Spring uprisings.
Since mid-2006, the Gulf state has witnessed ongoing political disputes between the government and MPs that forced the dissolution of parliament on six occasions and saw the cabinet reshuffled a dozen times.