Kuwait opposition leader jailed for 5 years over 'insults'

KUWAIT CITY (AFP) - A Kuwaiti court on Monday sentenced main opposition leader and former MP Mussallam al-Barrak to five years in prison after he was convicted of insulting the emir, an AFP correspondent said.

"The court has sentenced the defendant Mussallam al-Barrak to five years in prison with immediate effect," said judge Wael al-Atiqi.

Barrak was convicted of making statements deemed offensive to the ruler of the oil-rich Gulf state, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, at a public rally on Oct 15.

He was detained for four days in late October and released on bail. He is also facing trial on several other counts including charges of storming parliament and taking part in protests.

On April 8, his defence team walked out of court after the judge refused requests to hear defence witnesses.

Barrak had asked Mr Atiqi to postpone the trial until he finds a new lawyer but the judge refused and insisted he would issue the verdict on Monday.

Several opposition tweeters and former MPs have been sentenced to jail terms on charges of insulting the emir.

Kuwait's opposition has been staging protests to demand the dissolution of parliament elected last December on the basis of an electoral law that had been amended by the emir.

The opposition claims that the change is illegal and is aimed at electing a rubber stamp parliament.