By Courtney Trenwith
All seven had participated in a demonstration in February last year to demand Kuwaiti citizenship
Kuwait has sentenced seven Bedouins to jail for participating in a gathering of stateless men, AFP has reported.
One of the men, Abdullah Al Enezi, was jailed for five years for insulting the Emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, his lawyer said.
Al Enezi is believed to have fled the country while on bail last year and has sought political asylum in a Western country.
The other six men were each sentenced to one year in jail followed by deportation. As stateless men it is unclear where they could be deported to or whether they would be indefinitely held in detention.
They all had participated in a demonstration in February last year to demand Kuwaiti citizenship.
Human Rights Watch had urged Kuwait in April to investigate allegations of police torture of Enezi and two other stateless men detained for taking part in the protests.
Another 36 Bedouins who had been accused of taking part in the unlicenced demonstration and assaulting police were acquitted, Al Enezi’s lawyer told AFP.
The court asked five of the convicted men to pay $700 each to suspend their jail term, but refused to extend the exemption to the sixth defendant, leading stateless rights activist Abdulhakim Al Fadhli, AFP reported. All the rulings can be challenged.
Bedouin citizenship has been a major issue in Kuwait for decades. The Bedouins claim they were born and raised in Kuwait and have the right to Kuwaiti citizenship. But the government says only 34,000 of an estimated 110,000 stateless qualify for consideration and that the rest hold other nationalities.
The government has been slow in determining their citizenship rights, granting a couple of thousand on rare occasions.
Citizenship would not only give the men access to a passport and security rights, but also the lavish privileges bestowed on nationals of the oil producing country, including a guaranteed job in the public sector and hefty subsidies on essential services.