The US State Department criticized Kuwait for prosecuting a blogger in connection with insulting the country's ruler.
Blogger and journalist Mohammad Abdul-Kader al-Jassem faces up to 18 years in prison if convicted, according to his lawyers. He was detained on May 11, after a complaint against him was issued by the office of the Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah.
"I cannot comment on a case being heard in court, but I can say we don't accept any interference in our internal affairs at all. Kuwait is a sovereign state with its own systems and authorities," the Kuwaiti foreign minister said in response to the State Department’s remarks.
Jassem is also accused of “spreading false news that could harm Kuwait's national interests, and inciting against the government”. He and his family deny the accusations and say they are politically motivated.
On June 3, the U.S. State Department spokesman, P.J. Corwley, told Reuters that Washington has raised concerns about the case with Kuwait's government. "The ability of citizens and journalists of any country to freely and vigorously discuss, debate and critique the actions of governments does not threaten national interests," he said.
On his website, the blogger criticized the ruling al-Sabah family and accused Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah of mismanagement and corruption.
June 3, 2010
Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk
Kuwait is widely recognized as one of the GCC’s and the Arab World’s most open country in terms of press freedom. However, in recent years, it has suffered a decline in its press openness as the country faced increasing political challenges.
The role of the ruling family in particular has been brought into question as senior members of the ruling family hold the main offices in government, including the prime-minister. With the current prime-minister resigning five times to avoid a parliamentary grilling, and the Emir reappointing him, often after dissolving parliament itself, the Emir’s decision to keep the same prime-minister despite his issues with parliament were seen as a means to satisfy members of the ruling family. This has resulted in an increasingly public debate about the role of the ruling family in government affairs.
The arrest of the blogger represents a serious set-back both to press freedom in Kuwait as well as an indication of the seriousness with which the Kuwaiti regime views the ongoing debate about the role of the ruling family. The news therefore increase the possibility of a backlash from within Kuwait and will inevitably lead to a more heated discussion about the ruling family, which ca only further complicate the already fragile political situation in the country.