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Blogger sentenced to 10 years in prison for criticising neighbouring monarchies

(ANHRI/IFEX) - Cairo, June 5, 2012 - ANHRI firmly condemns the ruling issued against Kuwaiti blogger Hamad al-Naqi, sentencing him to 10 years in prison for allegedly insulting the prophet Muhammad, the divine being and the rulers of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. This sentence is another fatal blow to freedom of opinion and expression in Kuwait after a series of harsh rulings against bloggers and journalists for merely expressing their views.

The case began in March 2012 when the prosecutor charged al-Naqi; a Shiite Kuwaiti citizen, with three charges. One is for insulting the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h), his wives and companions - a charge Al-Naqi denied by stating his Twitter account was hacked. The second shocking charge is harming the interests of the country for allegedly mocking the rulers of two countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC); Bahrain and KSA. The last charge was for broadcasting and publishing false news abroad through his mobile phone via Twitter.
The security services arrested al-Naqi last March and accused him of the above mentioned charges. He denied them all, which was confirmed by the searching his mobile, but the security authorities claim that he has another phone in his possession that was used for logging into social network sites.

Al-Naqi's attorney states that the 10 year sentence was the maximum penalty prescribed by law in these cases. ANHRI was unable to obtain the exact wording of sentence, as there were conflicting reports asserting that the sentence was based on all charges against him and others stating that the charge of insulting the Prophet on Twitter was dropped as it couldn't be proven.

ANHRI considers this sentence a threat to freedom of expression and opinion and a sign of future applications of laws being discussed in Parliament that try to impose death penalty on whoever insults the Prophet and the divine being.

“If a blogger used hate speech to attack the teachings of certain religion or insult follows of a particular doctrine, the punishment should be a fine and not prison for ten years. This would ensure the promotion of freedom of opinion and to ensure that the law won't be used to protect the rulers domination and the dictatorship of the majority,” said ANHRI.

ANHRI called on influencers and intellectuals to stand by and defend freedom of opinion before they themselves turn into victims of the same laws that wronged their opponents. The organisation went on to say: “Opinion should be challenged only by further opinions” and “ideas can't be imprisoned”.

Lately, Kuwait has had the highest rate of imprisonments in cases of free expression in the Arab world, notably the cases of Lawrence al-Rasheed who was imprisoned for 10 years for insulting the Amiri-self, and Mohamed el-Melify, who was sentenced to 7 years in prison for insulting Shiites.
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