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Kuwait's parliament to suspend two MPs over 2011 protests

Omar al-Tabtabaie and Jamaan al-Harbash were accused of storming the parliament and assaulting police
A man drives his motorcycle decorated with Kuwaiti flags on a highway in Kuwait City, 25 February 2015 (AFP)

Kuwait’s parliament will convene on Tuesday to vote on the suspension of two MPs after they were convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison in November 2011, according to Kuwaiti media.

Omar al-Tabtabaie and Jamaan al-Harbash were among a group of political activists and sitting and former MPs who broke into Kuwait’s National Assembly in 2011 to call for the resignation of the then prime minister Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammed.

The premier - from the ruling Al-Sabah family - resigned in June last year.

The protests were part of a wave demanding political reform in the country, inspired by the Arab Spring protests that shook the Middle East that year.

Although the Criminal Court in December 2013 acquitted Tabtabaie and Harbash, ten other lawmakers and 67 defendants of all charges, the Court of Appeal rejected the ruling in November 2017, and issued sentences ranging from one to nine year in jail.

Tabtabaie and Harbash, both opposition figures, were sentenced to seven years each, and had to flee the country.

Despite the court sentence, Kuwait’s parliament reserved Tabtabaie and Harbash's seats using a bylaw that protected them from the court ruling.

But on 19 December Kuwait’s Constitutional Court ruled that Article 16 of the parliament’s bylaws was unconstitutional, and said the legislative body cannot interfere, violate or undermine court rulings.

“Lawmakers are not above or beyond the law. Immunity is not a privilege, but is part of public interest. Lawmakers have no more rights than any other Kuwaiti to comply with the law,” the court ruling said.

The 50 members of the Kuwaiti parliament will have to vote to suspend Tabtabaie and Harbash, leaving MPs divided over the case and weakening the opposition wing inside the house.

The convicted parliamentarians and former lawmakers cannot run for public office again.

The oil-rich Gulf state's parliament has been dissolved seven times since 2006 due to frequent feuds between the government and opposition.

Last week, five Kuwaiti lawmakers submitted a draft law to abolish the Constitutional Court and substitute it with the Supreme Constitutional Court, a body that has limited power to interfere in the work of the parliament.