Kuwaiti lawmaker jailed after Saudi defamation allegations

Kuwaiti lawmaker jailed after Saudi defamation allegations
Abdul Hamid Dashti, an outspoken critic of Saudi Arabia's involvement in Yemen and Bahrain, faces a lengthy stretch in jail as Kuwait continues clampdown on critics of its allies.
2 min read
19 June, 2016
Abdul Hamid Dashti is an outspoken critic of Kuwait's close allies in Riyadh [AFP]
A Kuwaiti lawmaker has been sentenced to jail after a defamation lawsuit was filed against him by the Saudi Arabia's embassy in Kuwait.

The news was reported by Kuwaiti daily al-Qabas on Saturday, who said that Abdul Hamid Dashti – an outspoken critic of Saudi Arabia's involvement in Bahrain and Yemen – was handed the 10 day sentence in absentia, pending investigations into defamation of the Saudi state. The time in detention will begin once - or indeed if - his international arrest warrant is successful in bringing him into custody.

It was reported that the short detention handed to Dashti was of a preliminary nature, with the latter facing a heftier sentence if found guilty by Kuwait's highest criminal court.

Dashti provoked anger from Riyadh for his open criticism of its involvement in Bahrain's brutal crackdown of opposition activists since 2011 and the Saudi-led coalition's excesses in Yemen's war.

As a close ally of Riyadh, Kuwait has cooperated with its neighbour in closing down on Dashti, continuing a policy of punishing individuals who threaten its ties with other countries.

Previously, the Kuwaiti parliamentarian was sentenced to two years in custody in absentia for illegal fundraising by a Bahraini court.

Dashti's parliamentary immunity was also revoked by Kuwait's National Assembly last March, and it is claimed that the lawmaker has been moving between Syria and Switzerland in order to dodge the international arrest warrant against him that was issued in his home country.

A well-known sympathiser of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, Dashti accused Saudi Arabia of supporting "terrorism" in Syria, a term used by the Damascus regime for all political opponents. Riyadh, meanwhile, has been one of the leading supporters of the Syrian opposition in the country's civil war. 

Kuwait is widely viewed as having one of the most "free" political systems is the Gulf region, with an elected parliament that has comparatively wide-reaching powers compared to other GCC states.

However, since the Arab Spring began in late 2010, Kuwait has clamped down on freedom of speech and used its constitution and security laws to stifle political dissent, according to Human Rights Watch.