Kuwait: Online activists released, while human rights lawyer Hani Hussain remains detained
Update: Kuwait: On 09 April 2020, the Criminal Court ordered the release of human rights lawyer Hani Hussain on a bail of 5000 Kuwaiti Dinar (approx. USD$16,000).
Online activists in Kuwait continue to face interrogation and detention over tweets, while a human rights lawyer remains in prison for his online activities too, reports the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR).
On 10 March 2020, journalist Abdulaziz Al-Shaban (picture 1), was summoned by the the Cyber Crime Department where he was interrogated for 20 minutes about a tweet he posted on his Twitter account expressing his rejection of normalisation with Israel.
On 04 March 2020, the renewal detention judge ordered the release of an blogger known as “The Marxist Patron of People” (picture 2), on a bail of 1,000 Kuwaiti dinars (approx. $3260), after accusing him of insulting some people with his tweets.
Employees of the Electronic and Cyber Crime Combatting Department (ECCCD), which is managed under the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Ministry of Interior, had arrested the Marxist Patron of People after they were able to identify and monitor him.
The Marxist Patron of People’s account on Twitter, which was created in February 2011, is followed by more than 103,000 people and the Twitter user describes himself as "the president of the Kuwaiti Hard-Worker Association". He tweets without mentioning his real name because he addresses important issues of concern to citizens. He criticises widespread corruption and exploitation of citizens by some merchants, as well as the failure of government agencies and their officials to carry out their duties towards society.
Also, on 04 March 02020, the judge in charge of detention renewal refused to release human rights lawyer Hani Hussain (picture 3), and ordered his continued imprisonment until the next hearing of his trial, scheduled on 23 March 2020. State security made two charges against him, the first linked to broadcasting news about the area separating Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and the second allegedly violating the law of national unity.
On 19 February 2020, Hussain was arrested by the security forces in a mysterious manner, without prior notice. Also, his family was not informed until late on the same day as it appeared that he was transferred to the Public Prosecution, which decided to imprison him for 21 days pending investigation and was placed in the Central Prison.
Hussain is a well-known human rights defender in Kuwait who has made great efforts to defend the activists of the Bedoon community in Kuwait who were arrested in 2019. Most of them were recently released. He uses his Twitter account to express his views peacefully and to defend the civil and human rights of all citizens, including the Bedoon community.
In the past two weeks, the authorities summoned another two online activists who use their Twitter accounts to express their personal opinions on issues of concern to their fellow citizens within their constitutional right to freedom of expression.
On 01 March 2020, blogger Fayez Al-Otaibi (picture 4), announced on his Twitter account that the CID had summoned him to appear for investigation. On 02 March 2020, he published a tweet in which he stated that he had completed an investigation at the Cyber Crime Department and was then released without bail. The case is related to a total of 22 tweets and was referred to the Public Prosecution’s Expression, Guidance and Social Communication Department.
Fayez uses his Twitter account to peacefully express his views on various topics and defend civil rights, including freedom of expression.
On 29 February 2020, blogger Alyaa Khraibut (picture 5), posted a tweet after being summoned for investigation by the Cyber Crime Department. She was released on 02 March after being investigated over a tweet she posted on her account on 27 November 2019, in which she commented on information published in some local newspapers about "a lawmaker trying to release a suspect accused of rape." Local sources said that the case against her was also transferred to the Public Prosecution’s Expression, Guidance and Social Communication Department.
Khraibut uses her account to address issues of concern to citizens, including the policy of censorship of books, respect for civil rights, freedom of the press and freedom of expression, as well as to expose attempts to cover up rape crimes.
GCHR calls on the Kuwaiti authorities to:
- Protect public freedoms and in particular freedom of expression, including by ordering the immediate release of human rights lawyer Hani Hussain, and dropping all charges against him and three online activists – twitter user known as the Marxist Patron of People, Fayez Al-Otaibi, and Alyaa Khraibut; and
- Ensure in all circumstances that human rights defenders, lawyers and online activists in Kuwait can carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals or restrictions, including judicial harassment.