Kuwait arrests poet activist for 'insulting' emir, family says

FILE PHOTO: Sheikh Nawaf al Ahmed al Sabah is sworn-in as new Emir of Kuwait
Kuwait's new Emir Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah gestures as he takes the oath of office at the parliament, in Kuwait City, Kuwait September 30, 2020. REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee

DUBAI, July 7 (Reuters) - Kuwaiti authorities arrested a political activist and prominent poet over tweets criticising the government, his family said on Wednesday, as a political crisis between the government and opposition weighs on the wealthy Gulf state.

Jamal Al-Sayer, also a businessman, has been charged with "insulting the emir, spreading fake news that could harm the state's image and misusing his mobile phone", Muhannad Al- Sayer, his nephew and his lawyer, told Reuters.

Sayer was arrested on Monday evening after three police cars intercepted him in the street, he added.

The government and its interior ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

Frequent rows between the government and parliament have for decades led to successive cabinet reshuffles and dissolutions of parliament, hampering investment and reforms.

Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmed al-Sabah still has the final say over state matters, but Kuwait is the only Gulf monarchy to give substantial powers to an elected parliament, which can vote on laws and question ministers.

Parliament has been pressing to question Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah, a member of the royal family, over a host of issues including corruption, but without success.

"Your highness (the emir) and your highness the crown prince, the situation has become unbearable. You have allowed the government to disrupt and violate the constitution, defying the parliament and the people's will," Sayer said in a tweet on June 28.

His arrest sparked outrage among some MPs.

"We will not accept becoming a police state in which constitutional rights are violated... Following mafia and gangs' style and hacking freedoms are crimes against democracy and the rule of law," tweeted opposition lawmaker Abdul Aziz Al-Saqabi.

Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi, additional reporting by Ahmed Hagagy in Kuwait

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