A writer in Kuwait has been sentenced to seven years in prison for a series of tweets that are said to have slandered Shiite Muslims in the country.
Authorities in Kuwait have not been shy cracking down on users of the microblogging platform, with the first two arrests taking place last June, and the most recent just this past March. However, this is the strictest punishment handed down to date.
The man, Mohammad Al-Mulaifi, was first detained in February for 21 days pending investigation, for a series of crimes which include broadcasting false news, insulting the Shi’ite faith and undermining Kuwait’s image.
Al-Mulaifi is said to have apologised to Shi’ites, claiming that his words had been misunderstood. The writer insisted that he had not set out to insult his family or The Prophet Mohammed, however that has done little to appease his critics, who have even gone so far as to call for the revocation of his citizenship.
This is the harshest sentencing we’ve seen in Kuwait yet. Nasser Abul spent 3 months in jail before his release, and while Mubarak Al-Bathali was sentenced to three years in prison, he was released after 6 months.
According to Kuwait Times (via LA Times), Al-Mulaifi’s 7 year sentence is accompanied by hard labour, a fine of KD50 (approximately $180) and “temporary compensation” of KD 5,001 (approximately $18,000).
Member of Parliament Saleh Al Ashour told Gulf News, “Everyone should know that doctrines are red lines and whoever crosses them will cause internal strife that may have a negative impact on the country and weaken national unity.”
Kuwait is one of the leading countries in the Middle East for Twitter use, preceded only by Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. As far as penetration of the population is concerned, the country is second only to Bahrain, with a penetration rate of 3.37%.
With its growing popularity in the country, the government recently expressed the desire to suspend all anonymous accounts on Twitter in the country, but it was never made clear how they intended to enforce that rule.