Kuwait’s lower court Sunday sentenced a stateless activist for five years in jail for allegedly insulting the ruler of the oil-rich Gulf state, his lawyer said.
Khaled al-Kafeefa told AFP that defendant Abdullah al-Enezi, who has apparently fled the country, was not present in court for the ruling.
Enezi was arrested in February last year for taking part in a gathering for stateless people, locally known as bidoons, to demand Kuwaiti citizenship and charged with insulting the emir.
Criticising the emir in Kuwait is considered a state security offence, with those found guilty faced with up to five years behind bars.
Enezi was detained for three months before being released on a $1,700 bail (1,500 euros) and banned from travel, the lawyer said.
But Kafeefa said he has learned that Enezi had fled Kuwait and sought political asylum in a Western country.
Human Rights Watch called on Kuwait in April to investigate allegations of police torture of Enezi and two other stateless men detained for taking part in protests.
On Sunday, the Kuwaiti court also acquitted 36 bidoons who had been accused of taking part in an unlicenced demonstration and assaulting police, Kafeefa said.
But a lower court on Thursday sentenced six stateless men to one year in jail to be followed by deportation for allegedly taking part in an unlicenced gathering and assaulting police.
The court asked five of them to pay each $700 to suspend the jail term, but refused to extend the exemption to the sixth defendant, leading stateless rights activist Abdulhakim al-Fadhli.
All the rulings can be challenged.
The bidoons were born and raised in Kuwait and claim the right to Kuwaiti citizenship.
But the government says only 34,000 of an estimated 110,000 stateless qualify for consideration and that the rest hold other nationalities.