(Adds cancellation of newspaper and TV channel licenses)
By Ahmed Hagagy
KUWAIT, July 22 Kuwait's government has revoked
the citizenship of two opposition figures and some family
members and shut two media outlets, the state news agency
reported, in moves that could deepen a political crisis in the
U.S.-allied Gulf Arab state.
The move comes after the cabinet adopted what it called an
"iron fist policy" last week following protests over the arrest
of a prominent opposition politician, in which the cabinet
threatened to remove the citizenship of people suspected of
trying to "undermine the stability" of the state.
KUNA said the cabinet agreed at a meeting late on Monday to
impose the measures on Ahmed al-Jabr as well as on Abdullah
Barghash, his two brothers and his sister, on the
recommendations of the interior minister.
The decision will make them lose some of the state benefits
that citizens enjoy, including public healthcare, education and
housing. But they do not face imminent expulsion.
Jabr, chairman of the al-Youm, an opposition TV channel, and
Barghash, a former parliament member, could not immediately be
reached for a comment.
However, pro-democracy activist Nasser al-Abdaly told
Reuters the government was relying on rarely used laws to target
"some of those who oppose the policies of the government".
He said Barghash's citizenship was revoked under a law that
forbids Kuwaitis from dual citizenship, while Jabr was targeted
under a law that requires naturalised Kuwaitis to avoid
committing any crime for 20 years.
He said authorities had accused Jabr of working against
Kuwait's security and stability.
NEWSPAPER, TV CHANNEL CLOSED
Kuwait's Information Ministry, in a subsequent move on
Tuesday night, canceled the licenses of a local newspaper and a
television channel "because they did not fully honor one of the
conditions in the licenses," Muneera Al-Huwaidi, assistant
undersecretary for Press and Publications, told KUNA on Tuesday,
giving no further details.
KUNA did not identify the newspaper or the TV channel, but
Abdelhamid al-Da'as, the editor-in-chief of Alam al-Youm
newspaper and a member of the board of al-Youm television
channel, said the decision was related to the two media outlets.
"A letter arrived from the Ministry of Information revoking
the license of the newspaper and the channel," al-Da'as told
Reuters, adding that they have complied with the decision.
Kuwait, enduring a long feud between the elected parliament
and the appointed government in which ruling family members hold
some top posts, has been unsettled by an investigation into an
alleged plot to overthrow the ruling system.
The cabinet also ordered the closure of branches of local
non-governmental public welfare associations for "violating the
rules set out by law for the activities of public welfare for
which they were licensed."
It did not name them, but local activists said the main
target was an association linked to the Muslim Brotherhood,
accused of involvement in politics in violation of Kuwaiti law.
But in an apparently conciliatory gesture, KUNA said that
the country's ruler received the head of the Islamist Eslah
association at the Emiri court and invited him to patronise the
society's 50th anniversary celebration.
Kuwait allows more political freedom than other Gulf Arab
states. It has a lively press and an elected parliament, but has
banned public gatherings of more than 20 people without a
Police used smoke bombs to disperse hundreds of people who
tried to march earlier this month from the Grand Mosque to the
main court complex to demand the release of Musallam al-Barrak,
the opposition politician who had been detained for questioning
on suspicion of insulting the judiciary.
Kuwait has suffered bouts of political crisis in recent
years amid disputes over election procedures and accusations of
corruption and mismanagement by former parliament members and
opposition politicians against senior government members and
loyalists, including members of the ruling family.
The OPEC member, a close U.S. ally with more than 6 percent
of the world's oil reserves, has been alarmed by the takeover of
large areas of Iraq by Islamist insurgents and other forces.
(Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Yara Bayoumy, Amena Bakr
and Jan Paschal)