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Popular journalist sentenced to a year in jail

Kuwaiti journalist Mohammed Abdulqader al-Jassem
Kuwaiti journalist Mohammed Abdulqader al-Jassem

A Kuwaiti journalist and blogger has been slapped with a one-year prison sentence for defamation - one of 18 charges the government has filed against him in the past year, report the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Mohammed Abdulqader al-Jassem was convicted and jailed on 22 November for an article he published last year on his blog, Al-Mizan, that criticised Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah for allowing Iranian intelligence to interfere in Kuwaiti affairs.

Al-Jassem understood his work may result in punishment. "I know the peril of this article," he wrote on his blog. "I know that Sheikh Nasser will continue in doing whatever he can against me. But I will not care; the interest and dignity of my country are more important to me than my own life."

Al-Jassem was arrested most recently in May and held for several weeks for "attacking national unity" and defaming the Prime Minister in his blog. He was freed on bail on 28 June.

According to CPJ, his lawyer says the 18 cases carry charges varying from defamation to "instigating to overthrow the regime." The Prime Minister filed four of them, and al-Jassem was acquitted in two out of the four cases.

His lawyer says that a "special section" has been set up within the Ministry of Justice to look exclusively into al-Jassem's cases, according to CPJ.

A few hours before his arrest, his daughter, Sumayah Al-Jassem, who has been actively campaigning for her father, said, "My father is at home, expecting to be arrested at any moment. He is clearly the target of a campaign orchestrated by the Prime Minister, who cannot stand any criticism. My father is the symbol of what the government can make people suffer when they dare to say what they think, when they dare to stand up to it. Such persecution does Kuwait's image a great deal of harm."

Kuwait dropped 27 positions in RSF's world press rankings for 2010, mainly for the harsh treatment of al-Jassem, RSF said.

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