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Bidun residents, media personnel detained following protest

(ANHRI/IFEX) - Cairo, 18 December 2011 - ANHRI condemns the use of violence to disperse hundreds of stateless Bidun protesters in Kuwait, arresting tens of them and referring others to trial on charges related to demonstrating.

On 16 December, the Kuwaiti riot police fired tear gas canisters and used water hoses to disperse hundreds of demonstrators who gathered after Friday prayers at Al-Jahra, 50 kilometers northwest of the capital, Kuwait City. A number of stateless Bidun residents raised Kuwaiti flags and banners demanding citizenship rights. However, security forces chased them until they reached their houses near by, and detained 25 of them. Meanwhile, a helicopter flew above the area to instill fear in the protesters.

Moreover, security forces attacked journalists, media professionals, and editors of newspapers, and detained a large number of them while they were covering the demonstrations and detentions of the protesters.

Four days earlier, 50 Bidun were referred to trial. They had been detained in similar protests in February and March 2011 on charges of "assaulting police forces", and "gathering and organizing demonstrations without a permission".

It is worth noting that stateless residents do not have any of the Kuwaiti nationality holders' advantages. Statistics about their numbers are inaccurate. However, there are estimated to be between 93 and 180 thousand people. The government promised to naturalize a great number of them, but has not kept its promise. It withdrew more than 3,500 citizens' security cards, an alternative to the identity cards that Kuwaiti citizens hold, without any clear evidence of their implication in security issues. Those citizens were not legally challenged or referred to trial.

"Gathering and organizing demonstrations is a guaranteed right in the Kuwaiti constitution as long as it is peaceful and harming no one. Police repression of stateless citizens' demonstrations is a clear violation to freedom of opinion and expression and an attempt to gag them from calling for their right to nationality," said ANHRI.

"The use of force will not solve the ongoing stateless residents' crisis, which began tens of years ago. Detention of media professionals to prevent them from reporting the news is a flagrant violation against media and press freedom that the authorities claim to protect," added ANHRI.

ANHRI calls for the release of all detained protesters, and an end to such practices that are antithetical to freedom of opinion and expression.

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