Authorities detained a former liberal lawmaker overnight for questioning and yesterday ordered him held for 10 days for tweets criticizing HH the Amir and his support for Egypt's president, a defense lawyer said. Abdullah Al-Ahmad said prosecutors began questioning Saleh Al-Mulla late Tuesday about tweets he wrote on Monday, when Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi was in Kuwait for an official visit.
Mulla - who was an independent and liberal lawmaker for three years until 2011 - wrote on Twitter that Kuwaitis have grown tired of the country's money being given to boost other governments. Kuwait has pledged at least $4 billion to Sisi's government following the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi from power in mid-2013.
"Your highness, we won't accept billions more handed out to other countries. We have donated enough. This is the money of the people of Kuwait," Mulla wrote in Arabic in one tweet. "The price of oil is $50 a barrel...," he wrote in another tweet, reflecting region-wide anxiety over the drop in global oil prices and its long-term effect on Arab Gulf countries' public spending levels. Ahmad said his client is being accused of insulting HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, insulting Egypt's president and endangering bilateral relations.
Billions of dollars in aid from Gulf countries has helped keep Egypt's economy afloat. Sisi's visit to Kuwait was aimed at shoring up Gulf investments and support after Egypt's foreign reserves and tourism revenues plummeted from more than three years of political instability that began with longtime President Hosni Mubarak's ouster in 2011. Egypt's foreign reserves stood at $15.33 billion at the end of December.
Ahmed said Mulla denies the accusations and will request bail. "There is no basis to these accusations, and there is no need to detain my client," Ahmed said. Activists held a protest yesterday night to press for Mulla's release. Several thousand Kuwaitis protested last year against government corruption, demanding better services and transparency in government.
Mulla boycotted elections in Dec 2012 in protest at the government's amendment of Kuwait's electoral law. Other opposition activists had launched an online campaign against Sisi's visit, urging authorities not to give more funds to Egypt. Kuwaiti courts have handed down prison sentences to several opposition activists and former lawmakers for remarks deemed insulting to HH the Amir. The latest ruling was issued on Monday when the supreme court sentenced activist Sager Al-Hashash to 20 months in prison on charges of insulting the Amir on Twitter. Criticising the Amir is considered a state security offence, with those found guilty facing up to five years behind bars.