x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Kuwait vows 'firm response' as police fire tear gas and stun grenades to disperse protest

Police fire tear gas and stun grenades to disperse thousands of people demonstrating against the conviction of former member of parliament Musallam Al Barrak.

Kuwaiti opposition leader and former MP Mussallam Al Barrak (centre) attends a demonstration in Kuwait City on April 17 against a court verdict to jail him for five years for insulting the emir.
Kuwaiti opposition leader and former MP Mussallam Al Barrak (centre) attends a demonstration in Kuwait City on April 17 against a court verdict to jail him for five years for insulting the emir.

KUWAIT CITY // Kuwait's interior ministry warned yesterday that rioting and violence would be met with a "firm response" a day after protests over the conviction of an opposition politician for insulting the country's ruler.

Police fired tear gas and stun grenades on Wednesday to disperse thousands of people demonstrating against the conviction of former member of parliament Musallam Al Barrak, who was sentenced to five years in jail for the comments last year.

The verdict on Monday has rekindled tension after a period of relative calm following a parliamentary election in December, with supporters staging nightly protests.

Al Barrak's lawyer said yesterday that Kuwait's appeals court would review a challenge filed by him next week.

"The court set April 22 to review the appeal we have filed," Abdulrahman Al Barrak said on Twitter.

The court has the authority to keep Al Barrak out of prison until it has settled the case.

Although Al Barrak said he is prepared to go to jail at any time, he has refused to turn himself in until he is given the original arrest warrant, and authorities have been unable to arrest him so far.

Wednesday's protests followed a bid by elite special forces to raid Al Barrak's home.

The interior ministry said yesterday that some protesters engaged in "acts of rioting and violence".

It said people had fired shots into the air "to provoke security personnel", and protesters had aimed fireworks at police. It also accused them of setting fire to public property and halting traffic.

"Any form of riot, violence, instigating of riots and violence or lawlessness would meet resolute and firm response," the ministry said on the state news agency, Kuna.

The health ministry said yesterday that 15 men, including 12 policemen, were wounded inWednesday's protest, but activists claim many more were hurt and were treated privately for their injuries.

The director of the Kuwait Society for Human Rights, Mohammad Al Humaidi, said on Twitter that as many as 19 protesters had been arrested and were under investigation for taking part in an unauthorised protest.