x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Kuwait releases 32 protesters demanding citizenship on bail

Protesters were held for nine days for taking part in a rally by thousands of stateless people wanting citizenship and other rights.

KUWAIT CITY // Kuwait's public prosecutor released 32 stateless people on bail after holding them for nine days for taking part in a protest to demand citizenship, their lawyer said.

The were released on 200-dinars (Dh2,600) bail. The men were arrested on December 19 during a rally by thousands of stateless people to demand Kuwaiti citizenship and other rights, their lawyer, Ali Al Sabri, said.

The men were questioned on charges of participating in an illegal assembly and assaulting police. Fifty-two other stateless people are on trial on similar charges.

Sheikh Ahmad Al Humud Al Sabah, the interior minister, said he had received instructions from "higher authorities" to grant citizenship to stateless individuals who fulfilled certain criteria.

He told the Alam Al Youm newspaper that legislation would be issued shortly to naturalise stateless people in the army and police force; those who were recorded in the 1965 census or had ancestors who were; relatives of Kuwaitis; and children of Kuwaiti women divorced from foreign husbands.

The minister gave no further details on numbers or any timeline for the proposed action.

Saleh Al Fadhalah, head of the central agency for illegal residents, a government authority dealing with the stateless, said the Gulf state may grant citizenship to 34,000 out of an estimated 105,000 stateless in the country.

The stateless, known locally as bidoons, claim the right to Kuwaiti nationality, saying that their ancestors failed to register for citizenship when the government began registration after independence.

Kuwait has long said that most bidoons, or their forefathers, destroyed their original passports to claim the right to citizenship to gain access to the services and generous benefits provided to citizens.

In a bid to force them to produce their original nationality papers, Kuwait has denied them essential documentation, including birth, marriage and death certificates, according to a report in June by Human Rights Watch.