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Rights body urges Kuwait to stop prosecuting writer

Human Rights Watch today urged the Gulf state of Kuwait to stop prosecuting a prominent writer for criticising officials and to lift a ban on media coverage.

world Updated: Jun 08, 2010 14:37 IST

Human Rights Watch today urged the Gulf state of Kuwait to stop prosecuting a prominent writer for criticising officials and to lift a ban on media coverage.

"Kuwait should stop prosecuting Mohammad Abdulqader al-Jassem, a journalist and blogger, for criticising public officials," the New York-based rights watchdog said in a statement.

"Kuwait's prosecution office should also lift its ban on media coverage of his case."

Kuwait's criminal court yesterday extended the detention of Jassem until June 21, the date of the next hearing. He has been behind bars since May 11.

Jassem, 54, has been charged with undermining the emir's status, attacking the regime and spreading false information that harmed Kuwait's national interests, which carries a penalty of several years in jail.

The lawsuit against Jassem was filed by the minister of the royal court, Sheikh Nasser Sabah al-Ahmad, the elder son of Kuwait's ruler, on the basis of articles he posted on his website over the past five years.

"Kuwait, once relatively tolerant of free speech, is increasingly punishing individuals for their political views," said Joe Stork, Middle East deputy director at Human Rights Watch.

"The Kuwaiti authorities should stop persecuting Mohammad al-Jassem just for criticising Kuwait's rulers," he said.

HRW said it had reviewed some of the articles for which Jassem is being tried and found that "none incite violence" but are criticisms of public officials.