Kuwait urged to release blogger who criticized Prime Minister

Amnesty International has urged the Kuwaiti authorities to release a blogger who was sentenced to one year in prison this week, on charges relating to an article he wrote on his blog criticizing the country’s Prime Minister.A criminal court in the capital, Kuwait City, sentenced the journalist and lawyer Muhammad ‘Abd al-Qader al-Jasem on Monday after he was convicted of criminal defamation in a case filed against him by the Prime Minister, Shaikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah.The sentence began immediately and Muhammad ‘Abd al-Qader al-Jasem is held at Kuwait Central Prison.The case is believed to be one of six that the government has reportedly filed against the journalist and one of four brought by the Prime Minister in the last year.”Amnesty International believes that Muhammad ‘Abd al-Qader al-Jasem has been convicted and sentenced solely for non-violently exercising his right to freedom of expression and is therefore a prisoner of conscience,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.”The authorities should release him immediately and unconditionally and, more broadly, cease their apparent attempts to stop him from airing his views on the government and Kuwait’s ruling family.”The article which led to Muhammad ‘Abd al-Qader al-Jasem’s imprisonment was entitled “Nasser XVII” and published on his news blog, Mizan, in 2009. In it, he criticized the Kuwaiti Prime Minister, arguing that he had allowed Iranian intelligence to interfere in Kuwaiti politics.In another recent case, Muhammad ‘Abd al-Qader al-Jasem was arrested on 11 May and charged with harming national interests and undermining the status of Kuwait’s Amir or head of state by way of vague statements he was alleged to have made in his blog.He was released following a court appearance on 28 June. His bail was set at 2,000 Kuwaiti dinars (about US$6,850).Muhammad ‘Abd al-Qader al-Jasem launched his blog, Mizan, in 2005 and has used it as a means to air his opinions and analysis of the Kuwaiti government and the ruling al-Sabah family.He was previously the editor-in-chief of the Al-Watan Daily newspaper and later the founding editor-in-chief of the Arabic editions of the magazines Newsweek and Foreign Policy.