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Kuwait: Twitter Users Arrested then Released for “Insulting” Amir

Four months ago, state security police in Kuwait arrested two Twitter and a YouTube user. On Thursday November 3, 2011, two Twitter users were called in and detained by the public prosecutor for violating the 54th article of the Kuwaiti constitution which states: “The Amir is the Head of the State. His person is immune and inviolable.”

Within 24 hours, Hamad AlOlayan (@hamadalolayan) and Tariq Al-mutairi (@al_tariq2009) were released. Yet, their cases will continue to be investigated.

Kuwaiti netizens were not happy with the arrests and sent support messages for the two. Many of them were not objecting to the interrogation but to the fact that Hamal AlOlayan was detained before being charged with any violation. Others were trying to show that the the two Twitter users in question did not disrespect the Amir and that what they wrote is open for interpretation.

Hamad AlOlayan, left with his two children and father. Photo by Nusaiba Al Anjeri.

Hamad AlOlayan, left with his two children and father. Photo by Nusaiba Al Anjeri.

Kuwaiti Blogger Khamis Almutairi (@KhamisAlmutairi) commented on how the process was illegal [ar]:

المشكلة ليست بالتحقيق مع حمد العليان! المشكلة احتجازه! حمد لم يتطاول صراحةً..حمد وما كتبه يحتمل التأويل بكذا معنى، لماذا هذا التعسف بإحتجازه
@KhamisAlmutairi: The problem is not with interrogating Hamad AlOlayan, the problem is with detaining him. Hamad did not directly insult [the Amir] and what he wrote is open for interpretation, so why this unfair detention?

Then he added [ar]:

حمد العليان متهم، يحقق معه …يحتجز! و صباح المحمد يدان بتهمة سب النائب ليحبس لكن يتم اطلاق سراحه لينفذ باقي العقوبة خارج السجن!!..تعسف
@KhamisAlmutairi: Hamad AlOlayan gets interrogated and detained while Sabah Al-Mohammed [of the ruling family] gets charged in court for insulting a parliamentarian then gets released to spend the rest of his sentence out of jail! Injustice!

Political activist Jassim Al-Qames (@JassimQ) tweeted in criticism of this act as well [ar]:

أفهم أن يكون هناك قانون ويتم تجاوزه فيتم التحقيق مع الناس وفق إنسانيتهم وليس ترهيبهم ومعاملتهم كـ”حتة لحمة”.. خصوصا أنهم لا يشكلون خطر مادي
@JassimQ: I do understand that there is a law and when someone violates it then he will be interrogated, but this should happen with respect to his human rights and without terrorizing him or treating him as a “piece of meat”… especially when he is not a physical threat!
الاعتقاد بأنه بإمكانك اعتقال فكرة اعتقاد ساذج، فهو لا يزيدها إلا قوة وصلابة. وللأسف بدل أن نعدل السياسات نلاحق من يشير إليها، أي كان رأيه

@JassimQ: It is naive to think that you can arrest an idea, you are only making the person stronger. Unfortunately, instead of fixing our policies, we are hunting down those who criticize, whatever their opinions.

Blogger Shurouq Muzaffar (@ShurouqM) reacted to the arrests news saying [ar]:

الكويت عمرها ما كان فيها حرية كما يصور البعض.. الخطوط الحمراء قديمة والإجراءات التعسفية أقدم
@ShurouqM: Kuwait has never had freedom the way some describe it. The ‘red’ lines are old and the unfair practices are even older.
ماكو قناعة فعلية بالحرية عند الناس قبل السلطة، ولذلك نحن هنا
@ShurouqM: It is not only the authorities that don't have a real belief in freedom, it is also the people and that's why we ended up in this position.

Activist and blogger Dhari Al-Jutaili (@Dhari_) has also condemned the arrests [ar]:

ضد إخراج الكلمات من سياقها لتلبيس التهم غصب طيب، وضد التعسف بحجز المتهمين بما أنهم لايشكلون خطرعلى المجتمع وبالإمكان الاكتفاءبمنعهم من السفر
@Dhari_: I am against putting words out of the context and trying to provoke charges. Against the unfair detention of people who are of no threat to society. Blocking them from traveling is enough.

Lawyer Bassam Alasousi (@Bassam_Alasousi) criticized the small protest that took place in front of the prime minister's house against the detention of the two Twitter users [ar]:

سؤال: حجز المغردين كان بناء على قرار النيابة العامة والذي تقدم بالشكوى هو الديوان الأميري.. فما علاقة ناصر المحمد ليتم التظاهر أمام منزله ؟
@Bassam_Alasousi: Question: the arrests were based on a decision by the public prosecution after a complaint was filed by the Amir's Palace… so what does [Prime Minister] Nasser Al-Mohammed have to do with it for you to protest in front of his house?

On the other hand, journalist Mohammad Al-Baghli (@albaghli74) criticized the participation of parliamentarians in sit-ins for the freedom of the Twitter users [ar]:

بدال ما النائب يشارك في اعتصام يا ريت يشرع لنا قانون للنشر الاليكتروني يحمي الجميع من تعسف اجهزة الامن
@albaghli74: Instead of participating in a sit-in, a parliament member should work on issuing a law for Internet publishing that protects everyone from the injustice of security authorities.

Meanwhile, Haya Alshatti (@hayaalshatti) was curious to know more about this case [ar]:

يبيله ويكيليكس الان..ودّي اشوف السفارة الأمريكية شنو ارسلت لادارتها بواشنطن عن الاعتقالات التويترية بالكويت!
@hayaalshatti: We need WikiLeaks now! I would like to see what the US Embassy has written to [Washington] DC on the arrests of tweeps in Kuwait!

Saudi-Kuwaiti tweep (@AwthahAbs) pointed to the power of Twitter [ar]:

حجز المتوترين وإستدعائهم للتحقيق..لا يؤكد إلا تيقنهم بقوة تأثير تويتر وقدرته على التغيير
@AwthahAbs: Detaining tweeps and calling them for interrogation only confirms that authorities know how powerful Twitter is and how capable it is of making change.

After the release of Hamad AlOlayan, activist Khaled Alfedala (@Alfadala) who was detained when the Prime Minister sued him last year, suggested a gesture for the released tweep [ar]:

حملة شبابية لإيصال متابعين حمد العليان في تويتر الى عشرة الاف متابع
@Alfadala: A youth campaign to make Hamad AlOlayan's account reach 10,000 followers.

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