Kuwait jails two for emir insult tweets: lawyer

A court in Kuwait on Thursday sentenced two opposition activists to prison terms on charges of writing remarks on their Twitter accounts that were deemed offensive to the emir, a defence lawyer said.

Sager al-Hashash was given two years in jail with immediate effect while Nasser al-Deehani was handed a 20-month term but was asked to pay 200 dinars ($700) to suspend it, lawyer Khaled al-Humoud wrote on his own Twitter account.

The two verdicts are not final as they can be challenged in the Gulf emirate's court of appeal and supreme courts, Humoud said.

Kuwaiti courts have handed down several prison sentences to a number of opposition activists and former MPs for remarks deemed offensive and insulting to the emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, over the past few months.

In February, the same court acquitted five activists on the same charges. Dozens of opposition activists and former MPs are on trial on similar charges and for taking part in "illegal" protests.

Last month, the US-based Human Rights Watch said that the rights situation in Kuwait deteriorated last year, with police using force to disperse protesters and launching crackdowns on online activists.

HRW also urged the authorities to drop all charges against online activists.

The information ministry denied the watchdog's accusations and called them unrealistic.

HRW said that based on unofficial records, at least 35 opposition activists and former MPs have either been convicted, are on trial or are under investigation on similar charges.

Criticising the emir is illegal in Kuwait and is considered to be a state security offence. Those convicted face up to five years in jail.

The Kuwaiti opposition has staged regular demonstrations in protest at an amendment last year of the electoral law and subsequent December elections.

Kuwait has seen many opposition-led demonstrations in protest against the changes to the law, which opposition groups claimed allowed the government to influence election results and elect a rubber-stamp assembly.