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Journalist goes on hunger strike to protest harassment by authorities

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has condemned the obvious harassment of prominent journalist and writer Mohammed Abdel Qader al-Jassem and called for it to stop. The worldwide press freedom organisation also called for his immediate release and for all charges against him to be dropped.

Al-Jassem has been interrogated by the district prosecutor at the National Security ministry since the morning of 11 May 2010. According to local media, the prime minister, Sheikh Nasser Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, is behind this latest summons. The journalist has two lawyers with him but his family has not managed to have any contact with him.

"It is a political trial," said the journalist, who began a hunger strike in protest.

"The prosecutor called him yesterday morning to tell him that an arrest warrant had been issued for him and inviting him to attend at the department of National Security (. . .) unless he wanted to be arrested at his home," his daughter, Sumayah al-Jassim, told Reporters Without Borders. "So he went. It was 1:00 p.m. when the interrogation started yesterday. It went on until 3:00 a.m. and then started again this morning. We do not know how much longer it will go on."

She said that the lawyers had told her that they were going through every article that her father had posted on his blog in the past five years ( http://www.aljasem.org ) and in a book published in 2006. "But there is a law in our country that says it is illegal to take action against any work more than 90 days after it is published. My father has said he is going to file a complaint against Sheikh Nasser Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah for bringing a case illegally."

"With this new summons and this interrogation on his writing going back to 2006, it is obvious that Mohammed Abdel Qader al-Jassem is being hounded by the authorities. It has got to stop. We call for the immediate release of the journalist and for all charges still pending against him to be dropped," the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

Al-Jassem was sentenced on 1 April to six months in prison for "slander" against the prime minister, after he called for his resignation at a public meeting, saying he was incapable of running the country. The court however suspended the sentence pending an appeal, fixing bail at 5,000 dinars (about 13,000 euros). The journalist, who paid bail, said he would appeal the sentence.

He also said he had received - indirectly - a letter from the director of National Security telling him to leave the country. The journalist refused to comply with the order and condemned it on his blog. "I am waiting to receive a summons for this case too," he added jokingly.

Reporters Without Borders recalled that the Kuwaiti prime minister was received by French President Nicolas Sarkozy on 16 April 2010.

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