x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Kuwait minister resigns and avoids 'torture death' questions

Kuwaiti government accepts minister of interior¿s resignation, which will prevent MPs from questioning him on case in which man died allegedly after being tortured by police.

KUWAIT CITY //Kuwait yesterday accepted the minister of interior's resignation days before a protest against government tactics to delay legislators from questioning him in parliament.

Sheikh Jaber Khaled al Sabah had offered his resignation in January after information came to light about the death of a citizen in police custody because of suspected torture. The government's acceptance of the resignation, which was reported in the state news agency, Kuna, will prevent members of parliament from questioning the minister when parliament reconvenes in March.

The parliamentarian Falah al Sawagh said in the National Assembly: "Accepting the resignation of Sheikh Jaber Khaled al Sabah is the beginning of a path of reform in the interests of the country." He said it is a bold step by the minister and while he wishes his predecessor good luck, "we are demanding more reforms".

The pro-government MP Hussein al Qallaf said: "We have lost a reformist and courageous minister known for his actions against both the corrupt forces in the ministry of the interior and the crisis-instigating parliamentarians. Sheikh Jaber al Khaled al Sabah paid dearly for the price of his policies."

A parliamentary committee that investigated the death of the citizen, Mohammed al Mutairi, said that he had been tortured for six days before dying in the police station on January 11. The public prosecution is investigating at least 16 policemen for their involvement in the incident.

Sheikh Jaber had previously told parliament that the man was arrested for selling alcohol and that he had attacked the arresting officers and died in hospital after complaining of chest pains. The ministry later ordered an investigation into inaccurate information, and parliamentarians accused the minister of lying.

News of the resignation comes after the Fifth Fence, a Kuwaiti youth group backed by the opposition, called for a protest in front of the National Assembly at 11am on Tuesday against the government's "undemocratic approach". The group has utilised social networking sites such as Twitter to drum up support for the rally.

The assembly was expected to question the minister during a regular session tomorrow, but the government and its supporters delayed the next meeting until March, after the completion of major celebrations for national and liberation days. The group called the delay unconstitutional.

Sheikh Jaber will be replaced by another senior royal, Sheikh Ahmed Hamoud al Sabah, an adviser in the ruler's court.

Sheikh Jaber had a tense relationship with some MPs after he cracked down on illegal preliminaries held by tribes in the run-up to the parliamentary election in 2009. The minister was questioned soon after for "wasting public funds and smearing democracy". He comfortably won the backing of the house in the vote of no confidence that followed.

jcalderwood@thenational.ae