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Journalist gets six-month jail term in continuing judicial harassment

(RSF/IFEX) - On 1 April 2010, a Kuwait City court sentenced leading writer and journalist Mohammed Abdel Qader Al-Jassem to six months in prison on a charge of slandering Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammed Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, for saying in public gatherings that he was incapable of running the country and calling for his resignation.

Al-Jassem was released on payment of 5,000 dinars (13,000 euros) in bail pending the outcome of an appeal. The court began hearing the prime minister's lawsuit on 4 March, before adjourning the case until 1 April.

"This is clearly a political verdict," Al-Jassem told Reporters Without Borders after the hearing.

Al-Jassem is currently the target of no fewer than five lawsuits by the prime minister and information minister. As a result of one of the prime minister's suits, a court fined him 3,000 dinars (7,000 euros) on 7 March 2010 for an article in the newspaper "Alam Al-Youm" on 16 August 2009, in which he accused the media that support the prime minister of fuelling tension between Kuwait's Sunni and Shiite communities. The newspaper was fined the same amount.

The complaint that the prime minister filed with respect to the current article led to Al-Jassem's arrest on 23 November when he refused to pay bail. He was finally released 12 days later after agreeing to pay 1,000 dinars (2,300 euros) in bail.

Al-Jassem told Reporters Without Borders that he received a letter 10 days ago in which Kuwait's national security chief urged him to leave the country. He refused to comply and condemned the invitation on his blog, http://www.aljasem.org .

"I am waiting to receive a summons because of this case too," he said ironically.

"All these lawsuits and convictions give the impression that Al-Jassem has been singled out for harassment," Reporters Without Borders said. "This is very disturbing."

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