Kuwaiti jailed for 10 years for Twitter 'blasphemy'

Image source, AFP
Image caption, A law endorsed by Kuwaiti MPs stipulates capital punishment for any Muslim guilty of blasphemy

A court in Kuwait has sentenced a man to 10 years in prison for endangering state security by insulting the Prophet Muhammad and the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in messages on Twitter.

Hamad al-Naqi was also found guilty of mocking Islam and provoking sectarian tensions.

Mr Naqi, a Shia Muslim, had said his Twitter account was hacked and that he did not write any of the messages.

Some Sunni activists had demanded that he be sentenced to death for blasphemy.

'Chance to appeal'

An amended law endorsed by the Kuwaiti parliament last month stipulates capital punishment for any Muslim who, through any form of expression, insults God, his prophets, messengers, the Prophet Muhammad's wives or the Koran, unless the defendant publicly repents.

If the defendant repents, a sentence of at least five years' imprisonment will be imposed. Repeat offenders will receive the death sentence.

Mr Naqi's lawyer, Khaled al-Shatti, said the death penalty could not be applied in this case because the alleged crime had taken place before the change in legislation.

The amendment has not yet been signed by the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed Al Sabah, according to Mr Shatti.

If the emir does not approve it, the bill will be returned to parliament where it will become law if two-thirds of MPs vote for it again.

After his client was found guilty on Monday, Mr Shatti said: "The prison sentence is long but we have the chance to appeal."

He also said that even if Mr Naqi had written the offending tweets, he should only have been guilty only of a "crime of opinion", not of threatening national security, which carried the 10-year prison term.

About a third of Kuwait's 1.1 million citizens are Shia.

The emirate's Sunni-led government is concerned Shias may launch protests demanding more democracy and an end to discrimination, mirroring those in majority-Shia Bahrain and in Saudi Arabia's predominantly Shia Eastern Province.

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