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Journalist acquitted; activist released

(ANHRI/IFEX) - Cairo, July 13th, 2010 - The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said today that the misdemeanor court of the State of Kuwait valued freedom of expression in the hearings of July 12th, 2010. The court acquitted journalist Mohammed AlJassim and canceled the six-month prison sentence against him in the case filed by the Kuwaiti prime minister, Nasser AlMohammad.

In a separate case, the same court ordered the release of Khaled AlFadala, secretary-general of the National Democratic Alliance, and canceled the three-month sentence against him and a KD 150 (approx. US$ 516) fine. The case against AlFadala was also filed by the Kuwaiti PM. The court "was content" with the 10 days the activist spent in prison.

Both AlFadala and AlJassim were tried on the same charges of insult and libel, on separate incidents as a result of complaints submitted by AlMohammad over opinion pieces critical of him and the Kuwaiti government.

The prosecution had charged AlJassim with insulting and libeling the PM on the air during the talk show "Who is to blame, the government or the parliament?". For that, the journalist was referred to the court of first instance, which decided in May 2010 to jail him for six months and set bail at KD 5,000 (approx. US$17,200). AlJassim appealed the verdict and on July 12th the court acquitted him of all charges.

AlFadala's case started in November 2009, after he gave a speech entitled, "Go,we deserve better" during an oratory festival held in a public square. AlFadala criticized the PM and said he considered him to be the first enemy of freedom of expression in Kuwait. As a result, AlMohammad filed a complaint accusing AlFadala of insult and libel. AlFadala was referred to the misdemeanor court, which sentenced him to three months' imprisonment and a fine of KD 150, in June 2010.

AlFadala appealed the sentence and the first appeal hearing was held on July 5th, where the court decided to adjourn the case to July 12th. The court decided it was content with the 10 days which AlFadala spent in prison during the case review and decided to release him.

ANHRI expresses its satisfaction regarding the acquittal of AlJassim and the release of AlFadala. Nevertheless, ANHRI would have preferred to see AlFadala acquitted, the charges against him dropped, and him not being imprisoned for 10 days.

ANHRI asserts that the misdemeanors court was right in its decision to release AlJassim and AlFadala because they did not commit any crimes that deserve punishment; they only exercised their legitimate right to free expression.

ANHRI expresses its wish that Prime Minister Nasser AlMohammad will stop resorting to criminal prosecutions to silence critical voices.

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