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Sat 17 Mar 2012 11:26 AM

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Rights group urges u-turn on Kuwait newspaper ban

Human Rights Watch says suspension, conviction of editor should end immediately

Rights group urges u-turn on Kuwait newspaper ban
Newspapers, media generic

Kuwaiti authorities should immediately end the suspension of the daily Al Dar and void the conviction of its editor for alleged incitement, Human Rights Watch said on Saturday.

This criminal punishment, for articles in which al-Sultan condemned other writers for insulting the Shia minority, is a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression, it said in a statement.

On March 12, a criminal court suspended the newspaper for three months and sentenced the editor-in-chief, Abd al-Hussain al-Sultan, to a six-month suspended jail term and fined him KD1,000 ($3,500) for allegedly publishing articles that "raise sectarian strife".

HRW said the case stemmed from three articles that Al Dar published in late January that named news agencies and writers and cited articles and social media statements that al-Sultan contended had targeted and insulted the Shia minority in Kuwait.

“It is truly bizarre to charge someone with incitement for simply noting what others have said or published,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

“Kuwaiti authorities should immediately lift Al Dar’ssuspension and void the conviction of the editor.”

The Information Ministry referred the Al Dar caseto the Public Prosecution office which charged al-Sultan with violating Penal Code and press law provisions by publishing articles that “raise sectarian strife, incite to violate public order, prejudice (against) ... people and their beliefs, and incite hatred,” according to a copy of the charge sheet obtained by Human Rights Watch.

Al-Sultan told Human Rights Watch that he will appeal the verdict.

“The prosecution of Abd al-Hussain al-Sultan and suspension of his newspaper clearly violates the international standard that Kuwait has signed up for,” Stork said.

“Al Dar should be able to express the views of one of Kuwait’s religious minorities freely and peacefully and without fears of reprisal.”

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