Kuwait opposition leader released after protests

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Mussallam al-Barrak's release follows five nights of protests by anti-corruption campaigners

Al-Barrak's supporters stage a demonstration to protest his charging (AA)
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Thursday 12 February 2015 16:30 UTC
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A Kuwait court has released a prominent opposition leader whose imprisonment sparked demonstration in the Gulf state.

Mussallam al-Barrak was imprisoned last week for allegedly insulting the head of the judiciary Faisal al-Mershed.

"I order the release of the defendant on a bail of 5,000 dinars ($17,800)," said judge Ahmad al-Athari, triggering jubilation among Barrak's supporters in the small, jampacked courtroom.

During a speech during a rally in al-Irada Square on 10 July, Barrak claimed to have evidence that former government officials and senior members of the judiciary stole public funds. 

"Oh Mussallam, you are the conscience of the whole nation," shouted the crowd of supporters after the judge ordered Barrak's release.

Although his lawyer Thamer al-Jadaei told AFP that Barrak would be freed from jail “within hours”, he will still need to appear in court again in December to resume the trial, which faces a maximum three year jail sentence.

Demonstrations against Barrak’s imprisonment have been continuous for five days, with at least 25 people rounded up since last Wednesday according to activists.

Police dispersed hundreds of protesters on Sunday evening as they attempted to march between the Grand Mosque and the main court complex demanding Barrak’s release.

In a statement on Friday, Kuwait’s Interior minister warned it would use whatever force necessary to deal with the “unauthorised” assembly.

"Despite the attempts of the security men to urge the crowd to give up their illegal and irresponsible acts, they continued to gather and blocked the main roads and threw rocks at the security men," the interior minister said.

"The Interior Ministry will firmly confront any signs of disturbance, violence and incitement ... to prevent them harming the security and safety of the nation and of citizens," he added.

The outrage has been heightened by claims that the same officials involved in Barrak’s corruption allegations appeared in an infamous video plotting a coup to unseat the country’s al-Sabah rulers who have, in turn, attempted to censor local media from covering the allegations.

It is an incident that has rocked Kuwait with ruling family member and former energy minister Sheikh Ahmad Fahad al-Sabah having filed two lawsuits demanding an investigation into the allegations.