Former member of parliament had been sentenced to five years for insulting emir
- By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief
Manama: Kuwait’s court of appeals on Monday adjourned the trial of opposition figure Musallam Al Barrak to May 13.
The former lawmaker who last week was sentenced to five years in prison on charges of undermining the status of the Emir, Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, was allowed to go home after paying a 5,000 Kuwaiti dinar (Dh64,318) bail.
Supporters at the court erupted in euphoric scenes of jubilation after Judge Anwar Al Enezi announced the verdict two hours into the trial that gripped the online media, social networks and microblogs in Hitchcockian suspense.
Four lawyers relayed to defend Al Barrak after the judge said that the court could not accommodate all the attorneys who wanted to defend him.Reports said that 35 lawyers were ready to help the former lawmaker as he challenged the five-year sentence.
In their pleadings, the lawyers insisted on the innocence of their client and called for not sending him to prison.
Mohammad Al Jasem, the lead lawyer, said that sending Al Barrak to jail amounted to putting his life at risk, although he did not explain his conclusion.
He and the other members of the defence team, Thamer Al Jadai, Dokhi Al Hasban and Waleed Al Jari, requested the court to give them more time to review the case and prepare their arguments.
Al Barrak denied the charges of undermining the status of the Emir in a speech in October last year in which he reportedly crossed red lines by addressing the ruler in a “derogatory way”.
However, the former MP said that if he went back in time, he would repeat his words and insisted on a fair trial.
“The ministry of interior stormed my diwaniya — private hall — even though they knew I was not there,” he told the judge, referring to a search operation conducted by the police on his private hall to arrest him.
The interior ministry said that the search was in application of the court decision to send him to prison after he chose not to surrender.
The trial was monitored closely by the local and international community thanks to comments and remarks posted by people present at the trial on social networks and microblogs. Prompt online reactions to the events as they unfolded allowed a lively discussion of the legal proceedings and the status of Al Barrak, a man admired and criticised in Kuwait in equal measure.
Words uttered by Al Barrak and his lawyers, his meeting with the representative of a human rights watchdog at the court and the movements of the police who secured the perimeters were reported live through the multitude of online accounts, an indication of the growing power of social media and microblogs in the region.
The appeals court trial on Monday turned into high drama after Al Barrak who under Kuwaiti laws should have been apprehended as soon as the arrest warrant was issued last week, managed to remain free despite attempts by the police to escort him to a security station.
His lawyer and siblings invariably refused to allow the police to take him, arguing that they wanted to see the original arrest warrant.
Several MPs put pressure on the interior ministry after the police was unable to apprehend Al Barrak.