Belkis WilleJuly 16, 2013 05:05
Commentary: Convictions violate free speech conventions.
Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah in Kuwait City. (Yasser Al-Zayyat/AFP/Getty Images)
On June 10, a Kuwaiti court sentenced Huda al-Ajmi, a 37-year-old teacher, to 11 years in prison: five years for “offending the emir,” five for ”publicly instigating a coup,” and a year for insulting the Shia faith. The conviction stems from tweets posted by @ajaweed, her account, though she said she didn’t post them. This was only one of at least 35 prosecutions against people, including online activists, for offending the emir since October 2012. This represents a new and worrying trend; Kuwait used to be viewed as the most tolerant of free speech in the region, a standard that is being quickly eroded. Kuwaiti social media activists have been rallying behind the other cases over the last months, but did not support al-Ajmi in this one. Many said that her tweets went beyond what the law would or should protect as free speech.