A 10-year prison sentence for criticising the kings of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and allegedly “insulting” the Prophet Mohammed on the social media site Twitter violates human rights standards, Human Rights Watch has said.
Kuwait’s Court of First Instance sentenced Hamad al-Naqi, 26, on June 5 but the US-based rights group said it believed the sentence had been handed down to "intimidate" other social media users in the Gulf state.
Al-Naqi’s lawyer, Khaled al-Shatti, told Human Rights Watch that the court convicted al-Naqi on the basis of article 15 of the National Security Law, which sets a minimum three-year sentence for “intentionally broadcasting news, statements, or false or malicious rumors... that harm the national interests of the state".
The court also convicted al-Naqi for a tweet allegedly insulting the Prophet Mohammed and his wife Aisha under article 111 of the Penal Code, which prohibits mocking religion and carries a maximum one-year sentence.
“Kuwaiti authorities clearly violate international rights standards when they punish Hamad al-Naqi for criticising neighbouring monarchs,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
“This harsh sentence appears designed to intimidate other Kuwaitis from exercising their right to freedom of expression.”
Al-Naqi pleaded not guilty to all the charges, contending that someone had hacked his Twitter account and impersonated him.
His lawyer told Human Rights Watch that he would appeal his client’s conviction.
On June 6, Emir Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah rejected legislation passed by the Kuwaiti Parliament that would have amended article 111 of the Penal Code to authorise the death penalty or life imprisonment for anyone who “mocks God, the prophets and messengers, or the honor of his messengers and wives.”