Kuwaiti MP Convicted for Anti-Saudi Statements

The Kuwaiti National Assembly sentenced in absentia outspoken lawmaker and lawyer Abdul Hamid Dashti to 10 days in prison pending further investigation and trial by Kuwait’s top criminal court, at which point Dashti could face a longer sentence. The decision comes in response to a lawsuit filed against Dashti by the Saudi Embassy for comments the lawmaker made about Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria. According to the Public Prosecutor, three new complaints have been brought against Dashti in recent weeks, bringing the total number of complaints against Dashti to nine. In March of this year, Dashti’s parliamentary immunity was stripped for repeatedly defaming Saudi Arabia, leaving the lawmaker vulnerable to imprisonment and other criminal charges.

Dashti has long been a critic of the Saudi government’s intervention in the 2011 uprising in Bahrain and support of the al-Khalifa ruling family, the ongoing military intervention in Yemen’s civil war, and propagation of “terrorism” in Syria – Dashti is a supporter of Syrian President Assad, not the Saudi-backed rebel forces. These comments over the years have place Dashti at risk of arrest both at home and abroad.

Under Kuwaiti law, any individual convicted of a hostile attack against a foreign government that may expose Kuwait to war or severance of democratic ties is liable to be imprisoned for up to three years. Dashti was also convicted by Bahraini courts to two years imprisonment in absentia for “illegal fundraising” and faces several international arrest warrants.  In order to evade these international warrants, Dashti has reportedly traveling between Switzerland and Syria for the last several years. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights called Dashti’s conviction a “dangerous assault on freedom of expression and opposition figures” and said his charges represent a fear of dissent among the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council as a whole.

Although Kuwait is often seen as one of the most politically open of the Gulf states, as the newest POMED report discusses, the increasingly closed political space presents a danger to the stability of the country and its institutions.