x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Kuwaiti court grants bail for ailing dissident journalist

Mohammed al Jassem, a prominent writer who was detained for criticising pubic officials, was released on bail of 2,000 Kuwaiti dinars (Dh25,300) yesterday, his lawyer said.

KUWAIT CITY // Mohammed al Jassem, a prominent writer who was detained for criticising pubic officials, was released on bail of 2,000 Kuwaiti dinars (Dh25,300) yesterday, his lawyer said. "For now, this is good, but there are more problems to resolve when we go back to court," said Abdullah al Ahmad, a lawyer on the writer's defence team. "He's been in jail for 50 days with no good reason."

The judge ordered Mr al Jassem to be released after a plea from his lawyers, Mr al Ahmad said. The writer turned himself into authorities on May 11 after learning that an arrest warrant had been filed against him. He is scheduled to return to court on September 20. Mr al Ahmad said some of Mr al Jassem's family members shed tears of joy when the judge announced his decision. The writer, who is a former editor of the local newspaper Al Watan, is charged with attacking the regime, slighting the emir and spreading false information that harmed Kuwait's national interests.

The allegations were made by Sheikh Nasser Sabah al Ahmed al Sabah, a prominent royal who is the head of the Emiri Diwan, the headquarters and permanent centre of the country's rulers, and were based on the writer's books, articles and blog posts over the last five years. Mr al Jassem's lawyers have argued that his detention is "political" and their client criticised the government, but not the emir, which is illegal.

Mr al Ahmad believes the judge in setting bail took into account the Mr al Jassem's poor health - he suffers from a heart condition - and "mistakes" in his file. The lawyer has said in the past that Mr al Jassem was being detained illegally because a court order to detain him expired at the end of May. Kuwaiti parliamentarians, academics and journalists have held demonstrations to demand the writer's release, and international human-rights organisations and journalists associations have criticised the Kuwaiti government for detaining Mr al Jassem.

jcalderwood@thenational.ae