x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Kuwait frees professor who attended political rally

Obeid al Wasmi, arrested when police stormed rally in December, released from prison yesterday as lawsuits brought against activists including writer Mohammed al Jassim set to be dropped.

KUWAIT CITY // Obeid al Wasmi, a Kuwait University law professor who was arrested when police stormed a political rally in December, was released from prison yesterday.

In another development, the prime minister, Sheikh Nasser Mohammed Al Sabah, asked for lawsuits he had brought against political activists, including the prominent writer Mohammed al Jassim, to be dropped.

The minister of justice, Rashed al Hammad, told the state news agency, Kuna, that the criminal court's decision to release Mr al Wasmi came after a plea from his defence and was "based on the desire of his highness the emir". The academic had attended an opposition rally that was charged by special forces on the night of his arrest in December and is facing state security charges.

Members of parliament welcomed the decisions. Naji al Abdulhadi, an MP, said the prime minister's decision was "a good step in light of the differences and conflicts we experience these days".

The announcements could ease political tension in Kuwait, where the opposition's calls for the resignation of the prime minister have been growing in strength. A potentially explosive situation was averted earlier this week when a youth group cancelled a protest in front of parliament.

Mr al Jassem, who had been jailed for one year for defaming the prime minister in November but released after an appeal in January, said: "What happened today isn't a big deal for me." He said he is more concerned about a case brought against him by the state security, which has "very serious" charges related to insulting the emir. The prime minister has also asked for a case against the liberal activist Khaled al Fadala to be dropped, his family said. Mr al Fadal, the former secretary general of the National Democratic Alliance, had also served time in prison for insulting Sheikh Nasser.

Mr al Jassim believes the prime minister has asked for the charges to be dropped because of the political tension in Egypt and Kuwait. He said: "Things are happening in the Arab World … He's trying to re-represent himself to the public."

jcalderwood@thenational.ae