Middle East

Kuwaiti interior minister resigns over custody death

Sheikh Jaber al-Khaled al-Sabah
Image caption Sheikh Jaber al-Khaled al-Sabah is a member of the ruling family

Kuwait's embattled interior minister has stepped down amid rising political tensions that include calls for the first major Gulf street protests.

The emir accepted the resignation of Sheikh Jaber al-Khaled al-Sabah, who quit last month over the death of a man allegedly tortured by police.

He was replaced by a close relative of the ruler, Kuwait's news agency said.

The move comes amid calls for protests on Tuesday against "undemocratic" practices by Kuwait's government.

The youth group, Fifth Fence, has urged people to gather outside the parliament on Tuesday "to declare our rejection of the continuity of this government and its undemocratic practices", the group said in a statement.

Sheikh Jaber had been due to appear in parliament for questioning on Tuesday after a Kuwaiti man arrested for illegal liquor sales was allegedly tortured to death while in police custody on 11 January.

But the inquiry was delayed after the government and its supporters in parliament decided to postpone sessions for six weeks, a move the opposition condemned as unconstitutional.

Fifth Fence stressed that the proposed protest was not linked to any "external events", an apparent reference to the anti-regime demonstrations in Egypt and Tunisia.

The emir has appointed Sheikh Ahmad al-Hamoud al-Sabah, a senior member of the ruling family, as deputy premier and new interior minister. He served as interior minister in 1991-92 and as defence minister in 1994.

Opposition groups have escalated pressure on Kuwait's leadership in recent months over claims of corruption and perceived attempts to roll back political freedoms.

Kuwait's parliament is one of the few elected bodies in the Gulf.

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