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Kuwaiti police fired teargas late on Wednesday to disperse thousands of people protesting against the conviction of a prominent opposition politician for insulting the country's ruler, witnesses said.
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Musallam al-Barrak, an outspoken former member of parliament, was sentenced to five years in jail on Monday for comments he made in a speech last year, when he urged Kuwait's emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah to avoid "autocratic rule".
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Barrak's supporters have staged several rallies since the start of the case which has exposed deep political tensions between opposition figures and the government, headed by a prime minister picked by the emir.
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\nThe OPEC member state has avoided the sort of mass unrest seen in other Arab countries.\n
\nBut it has been beset by political turmoil. Investment projects and political reforms have been held up by a long-running power struggle between the appointed government and a series of elected parliaments.
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While Kuwait allows more freedom of speech than some other Gulf Arab states, the emir has the last say in state affairs and is deemed "immune and inviolable" in the constitution. He is protected from criticism by the penal code.\n
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US-based Human Rights Watch has called on Kuwait to drop charges for offending the emir, saying they violate freedom of speech.
\nIt said earlier this week that at least 10 people have been convicted in recent months on related charges, including some who made comments on social media.