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Wed 30 Nov 2011 08:29 AM

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Kuwait opposition demands protesters' release

Appeal comes days after PM, cabinet resign over allegations of corruption

Kuwait opposition demands protesters' release
Kuwaiti parliament speaker Jassem Al Khorafi speaks to the press after the cabinet steps down

Kuwaiti opposition lawmakers called on Tuesday for the
release of protesters detained for storming parliament, an appeal that came day
after the prime minister bowed to growing anger and stepped down over
allegations of corruption.

Kuwait has tolerated a degree of criticism of its government
rare among its neighbours, and has been insulated from mass protests that
contributed to the downfall of four Arab leaders this year.

But the Gulf state and OPEC member has been mired in a
long-running standoff between the government and parliament, which led to the
resignation on Monday of Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah.

A parliamentary opposition bloc, including 20 of the
assembly's 50 elected members, kept up the pressure on Tuesday.

"We request from the parliament speaker, and members of
the house's office to immediately withdraw the case and apologise to Kuwaitis
for what happened, and for the detention of its noble citizens," the bloc
said in a statement.

Earlier this month, protesters and some deputies forced
their way into parliament's chambers, demanding that the prime minister quit.
At least 45 people were arrested. Seven of them were released on bail without
explanation earlier this week, according to Lama al-Fadala, the sister of one
of the detainees.

Activists and relatives of the detainees were planning a
demonstration later on Tuesday to press for the release of those still held.

Parliament Speaker Jassim al-Kharafi, responding to the
deputies' statement, stressed that "there are procedures that must be
taken by the public prosecution, and it's their decision."

Earlier on Tuesday, Kharafi adjourned a scheduled parliament
session that failed to get quorum, and ruled out further sessions until the
formation of a government, the state KUNA news agency reported.

One possible response to the crisis would be the dissolution
of parliament, paving the way for new elections.

Thousands of Kuwaitis took to the streets on Monday despite
the prime minister's resignation, demanding the dissolution of the house.

The storming of parliament followed a request filed by a group
of MPs to question the prime minister. The request was blocked by the cabinet
in a move decried as unconstitutional by the opposition.