* Crowd celebrates release of opposition politician
* Tension rising in run-up to Dec. 1 parliamentary election
By Sylvia Westall
KUWAIT, Nov 1 Kuwaiti authorities freed a
prominent opposition politician on bail on Thursday after
charging him with insulting the ruling emir, accusations which
his lawyer said were fabricated.
Musallam al-Barrak, an outspoken former member of
parliament, was picked up from his home on Monday night, two
weeks after a protest rally where he appealed to the emir,
Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, to avoid "autocratic rule".
Although OPEC member and U.S. ally Kuwait has avoided the
kind of mass pro-democracy unrest seen in other Arab countries,
tensions have mounted between the elected parliament and the
government, dominated by the Al-Sabah family, ahead of a
Police in the oil-producing Gulf state used tear gas and
smoke bombs on Wednesday to disperse protesters marching on a
prison where Barrak was being held, witnesses said.
Barrak's lawyer Mohammed Abdulqader al-Jassem said the
politician was released on bail of 10,000 dinars ($35,545),
adding the charges against him were fabricated and his comments
had been twisted.
Around 200 of Barrak's supporters gathered outside the
central prison on the outskirts of Kuwait City to welcome his
release. The jovial crowd lifted him on their shoulders and
chanted "The people want Musallam al-Barrak".
"I trust the emir... but maybe he has received bad
information from those around him," Barrak told the crowd.
Although Kuwait allows more freedom of speech than some
other Gulf states, the emir, who has the last say in state
affairs, is considered "immune and inviolable" in the
Demonstrations about local issues often occur, but violence
has been rare.
On Oct. 22 police used tear gas and baton charges to break
up another demonstration, witnesses said.
On Wednesday, the Interior Ministry said security forces had
scattered rioters who had blocked streets and assaulted police
with stones and bottles, according to a statement published by
the state news agency KUNA.
It said drivers had tried to run over members of the special
forces, injuring five in two separate incidents. The ministry
said some arrests were made.
On Thursday, the ministry said it would "deal firmly" with
any gathering that violated the law, KUNA said. The government
has banned unregistered gatherings of more than 20 people on
roads or in other public locations.
The opposition plans a protest rally on Nov. 4 over changes
to the election law which some have criticised as an attempt to
give pro-government candidates an advantage in the parliamentary
election on Dec. 1. The government says the amendments were
needed to preserve national unity.
The opposition politicians have said they will boycott the
vote, the second this year, which was ordered by the emir after
months of political deadlock. An opposition bloc, made up of
Islamists, liberal and tribal lawmakers, won a majority at the
last elections in February.