A Kuwaiti court suspended publication of the privately-owned Al-Dar newspaper for three months on Tuesday, ruling it was guilty of inciting sectarian strife, the paper's editor-in-chief said.
The court also told Abdul Hussein al-Sultan, the paper's editor-in-chief, that he had to pay a KWD1,000 (US$3,600) fine or face six months in prison, he told Reuters by telephone.
Al-Sultan said the court had objected to articles that were supportive of Kuwait's Shi'ite Muslim minority. "They just accused us of trying to fight the Sunnis," he said.
The newspaper was briefly ordered to cease publication earlier this year.
But this was the first time it had been forced to shut down for an extended period and that its editor had been threatened with jail, al-Sultan said. He said the newspaper planned to appeal the ruling.
Kuwait's Information Ministry had brought 135 cases against the newspaper in the past three years, he added. The ministry was not immediately available for comment late on Tuesday.
Although Kuwaitis enjoy greater freedom of expression than citizens elsewhere in the region and have access to a comparatively outspoken press, the state can censor publications it deems morally offensive or a threat to national security.
Sectarian divisions have been cited by Kuwaiti politicians as one of the most serious problems facing the tiny oil-producing state.
Such tensions may have contributed to the resignation of the government last year when a political crisis rocked Kuwait, culminating in the dissolution of parliament.
Kuwait is particularly sensitive to developments in fellow Gulf state Bahrain where the Sunni Muslim monarchy has launched a crackdown on democracy protesters who are mainly Shi'ite Muslims.