* Opposition figures arrested after critical protest rally
* MPs said to have criticised ruler of Kuwait
* Ruling family issues rare statement stressing obedience
By Sylvia Westall
KUWAIT, Oct 18 Kuwait's ruling Al-Sabah family
issued a rare statement on Thursday calling for obedience to the
emir after a series of opposition gatherings and a large rally
earlier this week.
The Gulf oil producer has seen regular demonstrations since
last year, stemming from a struggle between the government
dominated by the ruling family and mainly Islamist and tribal
lawmakers in parliament.
But tensions have increased after Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad
al-Sabah dissolved parliament last week. Opposition figures say
they fear the cabinet will try to push through new voting rules
that could help pro-government candidates in an election
expected later this year.
"His Highness the Crown Prince, in his capacity as President
of the Council, would ... like to assert His Highness the Emir's
right to be obeyed," said the statement from the Al-Sabah family
council published on state news agency KUNA's English service.
It cited a Koranic verse calling on believers to obey the
Prophet "and those charged with authority among you".
Kuwaiti authorities arrested two opposition politicians
earlier on Thursday and interrogated a third after they made
comments seen as criticising Sheikh Sabah, an interior ministry
The former members of parliament spoke at an opposition-led
rally of about 5,000 people on Monday where Kuwaitis later
clashed with riot police close to parliament.
The men had also spoken at opposition gatherings before
Monday's rally. It was not immediately clear which remarks were
The Al-Sabah dynasty has ruled Kuwait for more than 250
years. The 83-year-old emir has led the country since 2006.
Although Kuwait allows more freedom of speech than some of
its fellow Gulf states, the emir is seen as untouchable and is
referred to as "immune and inviolable" in the constitution.
Former lawmakers Bader al-Dahum and Falah al-Sawwagh were
taken into police custody, the interior ministry official said.
Khaled al-Tahus, also a former MP, was summoned for questioning
by the prosecution service.
However Musallam al-Barrak, a prominent opposition figure,
had not been arrested. He had appealed directly to the emir on
Monday to avoid "autocratic rule" in a strong speech analysts
said could provoke a firm reaction from authorities.
"The (family) council would like to reaffirm that any affair
relating to the ruling family is not subject to publication in
any form whether audio, visual or written," the Al-Sabah
It referred to recent media reports that members of the
family had tendered "a note" to the emir, but gave no details.
KUNA issued English and Arabic versions of its report. An
additional comment in Arabic said the Crown Prince, the emir's
75-year-old brother and leader-in-waiting, also stressed that
the council "always plans its steps under the direction of the
Sheikh Sabah has the final say in state matters and he picks
the prime minister who in turn selects a cabinet, with major
portfolios held by Al-Sabah family members.
A group of around 500 people gathered outside the Justice
Palace late on Thursday to protest against the detention of the
"We are here because the three National Assembly members are
inside as well as four other people," Ahmed al-Sawwagh, cousin
of one of the detained politicians, said.
The four other people he was referring to were demonstrators
who were arrested on Monday after the protest rally. One of
those being held is the son of prominent opposition politician
Ahmed al-Saadoun, a former parliament speaker.