A Kuwaiti court sentenced a man to five years in prison on Sunday for insulting the emir on Twitter, a rights lawyer and news websites said, in the latest prosecution for criticism of authorities via social media in the Gulf Arab state.
The court gave Kuwaiti Mohammad Eid al-Ajmi the maximum sentence for the comments, news websites al-Rai and alaan.cc reported.
In recent months, Kuwait has penalized several Twitter users for criticizing the emir, who is described as “immune and inviolable” in the constitution.
“We call on the government to expand freedoms and adhere to the international (human rights) conventions it has signed,” said lawyer Mohammad al-Humaidi, director of the Kuwait Society for Human Rights, commenting on the case.
Courts in Kuwait generally do not comment to the media.
Amnesty International said in November Kuwait had increased restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly.
It urged Kuwait to ensure protection for users of social media, whether they supported or opposed the government, as long as they did not incite racial hatred or violence.
Kuwait, a U.S. ally and major oil producer, has been taking a firmer line on politically sensitive comments aired on the internet. Twitter is extremely popular in the country of 3.7 million.
Criticizing the emir is illegal in Kuwait and is considered worthy of a state security charge. Under the law, people who are convicted of the offence face a jail term of up to five years.
In January, a court sentenced two men, Ayyad al-Harbi and Rashed al-Enezi, in separate cases to jail time for insulting the emir on Twitter.
Enezi and Harbi, both in their 20s, are the first to be sentenced among dozens of tweeps, activists and ex-opposition lawmakers who have been charged with similar offences since the government began a clampdown ahead of elections held on December 1.
In June 2012, a man was sentenced to 10 years in prison after he was convicted of endangering state security by insulting Prophet Mohammad and the Sunni Muslim rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain on social media.
The recent Twitter cases have been carried out under the state security law and penal code. Last year Kuwait passed new legislation aimed at regulating social media.