Kuwaiti man receives 10 years in prison for tweets while the Parliament of Kuwait mulls the death penalty for blasphemy

A Kuwaiti man is in prison for 10 years for blasphemy after a post on Twitter, and, if Kuwait's parliament has its way, the next person to do it could face the death penalty.

Hamad al Naqi, a Shi'a, allegedly insulted Muhammad, his wives and his friends via Twitter. Naqi denies the accusations, saying his Twitter account was compromised, but still received 10 years in prison for the Tweets. [1]

Kuwaiti newspapers have run editorials condemning Naqi, and Sunni activists called for his death. In reaction, members of the Parliament of Kuwait called for the death penalty in future cases. [2] Naqi was denied bail and, according to Amnesty International, Naqi's attorney was not allowed to be present during the investigation phase of the trial.

Codified laws against blasphemy in Kuwait go back to a 1961 publications law, and the length of the jail term is based on the severity of the comments.

Though Naqi plans to appeal his conviction, and still maintains he did not write the offending messages, Naqi Is one of a number of online activists who have recently been detained for criticising religion or the Emir, and he also supported pro-democracy protests in Bahrain, led mainly by the Shiites. Kuwait’s Shiites make up about 30% of Kuwait's one million native citizens.

In April, the Parliament of Kuwait voted in favour of applying the death penalty to Muslims who committed blasphemy through any form of expression. It would've also meant death for anyone describing “themselves as new prophets or a messenger from God,” according to Kuwaiti state news agency KUNA. Only six members of parliament voted against the bill, all because they say it did not go far enough. [3]

"We do not want to execute people with opinions or thought because Islam respects these people... But we need this legislation because incidents of cursing God have increased. We need to deter them," opposition MP Ali al Deqbasi said during a debate. [2]

However, in June, the Emir of Kuwait rejected the law. As of July, it still had to go back before the parliament, which could overturn the Emir's veto.

Amnesty International representatives say a law imposing the death penalty for blasphemy violates Article 6(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which Kuwait is a signatory, which states ““(i)n countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes...”

International bodies have interpreted this to mean intentional crimes with lethal consequences [1]. Religious “offences” such as blasphemy do not fall under the category of “most serious crimes."

“Criticising religion is a protected form of expression and should not be criminalised,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Deputy Middle East and North Africa Program Director, in a news release. “Nor should individuals be subject to imprisonment for insulting heads of state or other public figures or institutions. The Kuwaiti authorities should take urgent steps to review the law so that no one can be imprisoned solely for expressing their view about religion or public figures where they are not inciting hatred or violence.”

In a similar case, clerics in Saudi Arabia have called for the death of Hamza Kashgari, who was charged with blasphemy after he posted Tweets about Prophet Mohammad.

[1] Amnesty International article on Hamad al Naqi's arrest. http://www.amnesty.org/en/ news/kuwait-faces-prison- sentence-over-blasphemous- tweet-2012-06-06
[2] Al-Arabiya with AFP http://english.alarabiya.net/ articles/2012/05/03/211972. html
[3] David Keyes for the Daily Beast http://www.thedailybeast.com/ articles/2012/05/05/u-s- challenge-on-kuwait-s-death- penalty-for-blasphemy-how-far- to-intercede.html

 

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