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Former Kuwaiti MP sentenced to 10 years in prison for insulting Saudi Arabia

A former Kuwaiti lawmaker is now facing a total of more than 42 years in prison for making 'offensive' comments about Saudi Arabia and Bahrain
Kuwaiti MP Abdulhameed Dashti speaks during a parliament session on March 1, 2016 (AFP)

A Kuwaiti appeals court convicted former Shia MP Abdulhameed Dashti of offending Saudi Arabia on Thursday, and sentenced him to 10 years in prison in absentia.

The new term raises the total jail terms handed down to Dashti to 42 years and six months for making comments considered offensive to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and jeopardising Kuwait's ties with the Kingdoms. The three countries are part of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

In previous cases, he was also convicted of insulting Kuwait's ruler. 

Dashti, who is living outside of Kuwait, condemned the verdict on his twitter account.

Translation: Could any sane person believe that I received a prison sentence of 42 years and six months for just expressing my opinion, what democracy are you talking about and what judiciary?!!!

In September, a Kuwaiti criminal court initially acquitted Dashti of the charges of insulting Saudi Arabia, saying that he was merely expressing his opinion.

Dashti was elected to parliament in 2013 but left Kuwait in March this year for medical treatment in the UK and has been abroad since then. Kuwait’s Public prosecution issued an arrest warrant against him and lifted his parliamentary privilege.

He tried to register to contest last month's snap polls but electoral authorities and the court barred him.

Dashti still faces several other cases for which he could receive further jail terms if convicted.

In previous comments on Twitter, Dashti said he expected sentences that could amount to 100 years in jail.

The verdicts are not final but Dashti can only challenge once he returns to the oil-rich emirate. He has not said when he will go back.

Dashti is a staunch supporter of Iran and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and a critic of the royal families of both Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

In May 2015, Dashti filed a request to probe the Kuwaiti foreign minister over the country's participation in the Saudi-led campaign against Yemen's Shia Houthi rebels, in support of the toppled President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.

He denounced the 2011 Saudi military intervention in Bahrain to support the government against Shia-led protests, describing it as an "invasion".

There are six Shia MPs in the 50-seat parliament of Kuwait, and the minority comprises about 30 percent of the country's native population of 1.3 million.

The conservative Gulf country has previously penalised public critics of the emir and his policies.

Earlier this month, a Kuwaiti online activist was also sentenced to 10 years in jail, by an appeals court, for posting messages on Twitter that "insulted the emir" and "spread false news" that endangered the country.

In September, a Kuwaiti court sentenced a ruling family member to three years in prison and the payment of $16,500 in compensation after being convicted of insulting the emir and several other royal family members.

The charges against Sheikh Abdullah Salem Sabah, grandson of the emir's late half-brother Sheikh Abdullah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, stemmed from video messages he posted on Snapchat early last year in which he strongly criticised the functioning of the government.

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