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Release prisoner of conscience Nasser Abul and Lawrence al-Rashidi Immediately

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September 26, 2011

Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah

Amir of the State of Kuwait

Al Diwan Al Amiri,
Sief Palace – Building 100
State of Kuwait.

 

RE:   Release prisoner of conscience Nasser Abul and Lawrence al-Rashidi Immediately

Dear Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah,

I am William Gomes, human rights activist and journalist.

Freedom of expression is the mother to all other freedoms. Kuwait holds first place among Gulf States in terms of respect for individual freedoms, and particularly in respect of press freedom. According to Reporters sans frontiers, Kuwaiti media are undoubtedly the freest in the region and have been closely covering tensions between the government and the parliamentary opposition.

Kuwait boasts a score of privately owned daily and weekly newspapers in Arabic and two English-language dailies. Kuwait’s written press has for decades played a major role in the political debate and reflects a tradition of diversity and outspokenness, according to RSF

Freedom of expression has been given a further boost by the liberalization of the broadcast sector and the creation of numerous satellite television channels as a result of several press law reforms. However, criminal law – that does provide for prison sentences – still applies to some offences, such as “defamation” or “attacks on religion”, according to RSF

 On the same time it is a very reality that in Kuwait there is widespread self-censorship in local press.

According to press freedom barometer 2011of Reporters sans frontiers by the year there is no record of Killing, imprisonment of a single journalist or media assistants.

I do wonder in the absence of  democracy the journalist are enjoying the freedom and the life of journalist and media people seems comparatively safe in  your country and that gives a hope that there is a deep seed of democracy in the region.

I am deeply concern about the about the a local of Kuwait  court yesterday sentenced a Sunni  activist to three months in jail for writing remarks on his Twitter account which was considered by the court as  derogatory to Shiites, according to local and international media reports.

On June 7, Nasser Abul received a summons to go to Kuwait’s Criminal Investigations Department. Authorities questioned him for a day, then transferred him to the state security prison. His lawyer, Khalid al-Shatti, said authorities detained Abul in connection with a series of postings on his Twitter page that sharply criticized and mocked the ruling families of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia for attacks on anti-government protests in Bahrain.

Authorities beat Abul and subjected him to sleep deprivation while he was at the Criminal Investigations Department, and then held him in solitary confinement for two weeks. Authorities denied his client access to legal counsel during several interrogation sessions at the prosecutor’s office, denied him family visits, and repeatedly insulted him for being a Shia, according to Human rights watch

The lawyer said that Abul denied writing some of the more inflammatory tweets he was accused of writing himself and said that hackers had posted the messages.

Nasser Abul was taken to his family’s home on 14 June; the house was searched and his computer and phone were confiscated. During the search, Nasser Abdul told his mother he had been beaten during the first two days of his detention, insulted and threatened, adding that he was not permitted to turn off the light in his cell.  He has been subject to harsh treatment during the first two days of his detention, according to AI

He is a prisoner of conscience who has been detained purely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression, according to Amnesty international

 On Sunday he was   sentenced by the court with the charges of undermining the country’s national interests and endangering Kuwait’s relations with Saudi Arabia.

Although the ministry of information claimed that freedom of opinion was ensured to everyone as per Kuwaiti constitution and laws regulating mass media, according to ministry of information.

The impulsive conviction   of Nasser Abul by the local court breach  Kuwait’s international obligation to uphold freedom of expression as guaranteed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Kuwait is a state party.

I want to recall your memories on February 2011the pro-reform protests began in Bahrain that leads to the arrests of at least 500 people and four people have died in custody in suspicious circumstances. I hope you do remember that on 12 June a member of the Bahraini ruling family, Sheikh Abdullah Mohammad bin Ahmad Al-Fatih Al-Khalifa, announced that he will be suing Nasser Abul, for slandering and defaming his family.

Human Rights Watch reviewed the postings on Abul’s account, which express support for the anti-government demonstrators in Bahrain and sharp criticism of the Bahraini and Saudi governments and ultra-conservative Islamist ideology. Some messages used derogatory or profane language about Bahrain’s ruling Al Khalifa family, but none expressed any support for violence.

This is not an isolated case, Lawrence al-Rashidi was also arrested on June based on a YouTube video. Lawrence al-Rashidi in a YouTube video called you to step down, according to rashdi you were violating Kuwaitis’ rights, and he predicts that you will be removed from power based upon events in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen.

Kuwait jailed a blogger, Mohammad al-Jassim, in May and June 2010, after he criticized the country’s prime minister. Al-Jassim appealed charges against him and was subsequently acquitted.

I want to remind you as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Kuwait is bound by article 19(2) of that covenant, which states: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.” Article 36 of Kuwait’s constitution protects freedom of speech and opinion, stating that: “Every person has the right to express and propagate his opinion verbally, in writing, or otherwise, in accordance with the conditions and procedures specified by law.”

The government should decisively reject criminal prosecution for mere speech and stop expanding repression into the realm of social networking sites.

I urge you to take immediate action to release Nasser Abul and Lawrence al-Rashidi.

I trust that you will take immediate action into this matter.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

William Nicholas Gomes

Journalist and Human Rights Activist

 E-mail:William@williamgomes.org

Skype: William.gomes9

Face book: www.facebook.com/wngomes

Twitter: www.twitter.com/persecutionbd

www.williamgomes.org

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