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Parliament considers death penalty for insulting God, Prophet

Kuwait's parliament has voted in favour of a legal amendment that could make blasphemy punishable by death
Kuwait's parliament has voted in favour of a legal amendment that could make blasphemy punishable by death

REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee

Kuwait's parliament has provisionally voted in favour of a legal amendment that could make insulting God and the Prophet Mohammed punishable by death, reports the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI).

According to news reports, the amendment, approved on 12 April, was backed by 46 Members of Parliament, while four opposed it and others abstained. Those in favour included all 15 members of the cabinet.

The key amendments will come into effect only after another round of voting in the next week and pending government approval.

MPs proposed stiffening penalties for religious crimes after authorities last month arrested a Shiite tweeter, Hamad al-Naqi, for allegedly using Twitter to curse the Prophet Mohammed, his wife and some companions.

Al-Naqi is in pre-trial detention. He told police his account was hacked and he did not post the comments. According to ANHRI, the court recently ruled that the charge should be elevated from a misdemeanour to a felony.

ANHRI notes that many other Kuwaitis are facing trial for blasphemy, and may be subject to execution if the law is adopted. Among them is Mohammed al-Mollifi, a writer who earlier this month was sentenced to seven years in jail and a fine of US$18,000 for publishing on Twitter insults against Shiism - the religion or doctrines of the Shiites.

ANHRI said, "This law pulls freedom of opinion and expression a hundred steps back in Kuwait," and cautioned that the authorities might use it to literally rid themselves of opposition.

Blasphemy is illegal in Kuwait under a 1961 publications law and at present carries a jail term, the length of which depends on the severity of the comments and their perceived effect on society, say news reports.

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