Kuwait: Five Bedoon activists released while 10 others remain in prison
Five Bedoon community activists have been released while ten other Bedoon activists continue to be held in Kuwait’s Public Prison as their trial continues. While welcoming the release of five of the activists, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) calls on the authorities to immediately release the remaining ten activists and unconditionally drop all charges against them.
On 17 September 2019, the 15 Bedoon activists were brought before the Criminal Court in case number 20/2019, in a hearing presided over by Judge Mohammed Al-Sane, during which the court heard the testimony of a state security officer. The court then decided to release the following five Bedoon activists without bail, but with the requirement that they would be present at any time following a summons: Ahmed Shaya Al-Anzi, Hamid Jamil, Mutaib Al-Onan, Jarallah Al-Fadhli, and Mohammed Khudair Al-Anezi. The hearing was adjourned until 15 October 2019 when other witnesses will be called to testify.
Most of the five released activists are elderly and suffer from chronic diseases, and their detention has contributed to a significant deterioration in their health. The other ten activists - Abdulhakim Al-Fadhli, Ahmed Al-Onan, Awad Al-Onan, Abdullah Al-Fadhli, Yousif Al-Osmi, Nawaf Al-Bader, Yousif Al-Bashig, Hamoud Al-Rabah, Khalifa Al-Anzi, and Reda Al-Fadhli - have been returned to the Public Prison.
The indictment document presented to the court by the Public Prosecution included the names of 16 activists from the Bedoon community, including also Mohammed Wali Al-Anezi, an activist who works from exile. The following charges were filed against him: committing a deliberate act that would prejudice the unity and territorial integrity of Kuwait; establishing with others abroad a group whose purpose was to spread principles aimed at destroying the basic systems of the country; calling on the 15 activists to join the above-mentioned group he created; and publicly insulting the head of the state (the Emir), as well as defaming the Emirate with his tweets and a video clip on his Twitter account.
The remaining 15 activists were charged, according to the indictment, with allegedly joining the group set up by Mohamed Wali Al-Anezi, as well as participating in unauthorised gatherings between 07 and 13 July 2019. Other charges include using social media to spread incitement to violate law and order; engaging in unauthorised demonstrations and meetings; misusing means of communication; and conducting hostile action against a foreign country, namely Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan.
The Public Prosecution demanded that the activists be sentenced according to various articles of four different laws, namely the Penal Code for Public Meetings and Gatherings, the Law on Combating Information Technology Crimes, the Law on Press and Publications, and the Law of the Communications and Information Tecnolgy Regulatory Authority, which means that if convicted, they will be sentenced to imprisonment for many years.
GCHR calls on the authorities in Kuwait to:
- Immediately drop all the charges against the Bedoon activities;
- Immediately and unconditionally release the 10 activists who remain in prison; and
- Respect public freedoms, including the right to freedom of expression and peaceful protest, and refrain from using laws to criminalise human rights defenders and online activists.