Kuwaiti writer given one year in libel case

Mohammed al Jassem has been sentenced to one year in prison for libelling the prime minister in an article published on his website.

Mohammad al Jassem, left, who received a one-year sentence for libel, said he will take his case to Kuwait's appeals court.
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KUWAIT CITY // A lower court in Kuwait yesterday sentenced the prominent writer Mohammad al Jassem to one year in prison for libelling the prime minister in an article published on his website.

"It's a political judgement, it is part of a campaign against some writers and MPs," said Mr al Jassem, confirming the sentencing. "The prime minister wants to keep everyone shut up."

Al Jassem, who expected to be taken into custody yesterday, said he believes the Court of Appeals will overturn the verdict when he takes the case there in the coming weeks.

The website article, published one year ago, alleged Iran influenced Kuwait's affairs through a prominent businessman who is an associate of the prime minister, Sheikh Nasser Mohammed al Sabah. In the article, al Jassem identified the man as a Kuwaiti citizen and names him only as "M".

The writer said he has recently been found innocent in two other cases in which he was accused of insulting the prime minister, and a fourth case is scheduled to take place later this month.

Abdullah al Ahmad, al Jassem's attorney, said the government has filed 18 cases against his client since October 2009 and he has been found to be innocent in nine of them.

Al Jassem said he does not believe the verdict is correct because the Court of Cassation - the country's highest court - found him to be innocent in cases that were "exactly the same".

He said there were irregularities in this latest case, including the announcement of the verdict by one of the court's employees before it was officially announced by the judge. "There was a leak, the judge told someone," he said.

A member of parliament, Aseel al Awadhi, in a statement to the press yesterday, criticised the practice of prosecuting people for expressing their views.

Al Jassem was detained after receiving a guilty verdict in one of the cases in May, but he was released on bail after 48 days. His lawyer believes the judge took his client's poor health into account - the writer suffers from a heart condition. He was detained for 12 days last November in another case related to insulting the prime minister; the lawyer said the guilty verdict has since been overruled in a higher court.