KUWAIT (Reuters) - A Kuwaiti court sentenced a woman teacher to a total of 11 years in jail on Monday for insulting the emir, inciting regime change and insulting a religious sect via Twitter, two sources close to the case said.
Huda al-Ajmi, 37, is the first woman known to have been convicted for criticizing the U.S.-allied Gulf Arab state’s ruler, described as “immune and inviolable” in the constitution.
Kuwait has penalized several Twitter users in recent months for slurs against the emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah. The political trials have drawn rebuke abroad and anger at home.
The sources said the court had given Ajmi two consecutive five-year terms for insulting the emir and one year for insulting an unspecified religious sect. “This is the highest sentence of its kind in these kinds of cases,” one source said.
Ajmi has not yet been taken into custody and can appeal the sentences, the sources said. It is rare for a woman to serve jail time for political crimes in Kuwait, which allows more freedom of speech than some other Gulf Arab states.
In April a Kuwaiti court gave an opposition politician five years in jail for insulting the emir, but an appeals court overturned the sentence.
In February, U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said prosecutors had charged nearly 25 people with offending the emir, sentencing at least six to jail terms, since October.
The United States has called on Kuwait to respect freedom of expression.
Reporting by Ahmed Hagagy; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Alistair Lyon