UAE, Kuwait jail two Twitter users

Tuesday 19 November 2013 13.10
The cases highlight the sensitivity of Gulf Arab states to dissent
The cases highlight the sensitivity of Gulf Arab states to dissent

A United Arab Emirates court has jailed a man for two years for tweeting about a political trial and Kuwait has handed a five-year prison term to a Kuwaiti for insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a tweet. 

The cases highlight the sensitivity of Gulf Arab states to dissent, criticism of officials and comments they regard as blasphemous, especially on social media.

In the UAE, activists said Walid al-Shehhi, who was arrested in May, was convicted yesterday of violating the country's internet crime law by a court in the capital Abu Dhabi.

He was also fined 500,000 dirhams (€100,700).

Shehhi had used his Twitter account to question the trial of 94 alleged Emirati coup plotters.

He also called for the release of detainees he believed were held for backing democratic reforms, according to a local activist.

In July, a UAE court jailed 61 Islamists among the 94 accused of conspiring to overthrow the government in a case that reflected the authorities' deep mistrust of Islamist groups. 

A Kuwaiti court sentenced Mussab Shamsah to five years in  after he was convicted of insulting the Prophet Muhammad on Twitter, his lawyer, Khalil Ahmed, said.
Mr Ahmed said Shamsah had meant no offence.

"The verdict is very harsh and we will appeal," he said. 

Thirty Emiratis and Egyptians are on trial in the UAE over charges of setting up an illegal branch of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.

Reporters Without Borders condemned the ruling and called for the release of Shehhi.

"The authorities are trying to make an example out of Shehhi in order to dissuade Emirati citizens from posting any information about the latest trial that strays from the officialline," the group said in a statement.

Last year the UAE tightened the law on online dissent, stipulating jail terms for anyone who derides or caricatures the country's rulers or state institutions on the Internet.

Several people were arrested after the law was amended.

Earlier this year, Kuwait sentenced a man to five years inprison for insulting the emir on Twitter and a woman to 11 years in jail for insulting the emir, inciting regime change and insulting a religious sect via Twitter.