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Barrak freed on bail after violent protests
July 8, 2014, 9:20 am
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Opposition leader Musallam Al-Barrak was yesterday freed from the Central Jail following a six-day detention on charges he allegedly insulted the judicial council and slandered its chairman. Following a historic court hearing, judge Youssef Al-Athari ordered that Barrak, a former lawmaker, be set free on bail of KD 5,000. Barrak initially refused to pay the bail, which could have kept him in detention, but some relatives paid the amount and managed to get him out about two hours before iftar.

Barrak later started receiving supporters and well-wishers at his diwaniya in Andalus and took part in a demonstration calling for the release of opposition activists who have been arrested during protests in the past five nights. As soon as the judge announced his decision, the small, jam-packed courtroom in Riggae broke into jubilation as Barrak’s supporters wildly cheered the decision. “Oh Musallam, you are the conscience of the nation,” chanted dozens of activists who were allowed to remain the courtroom.

The hearing was delayed for more than three hours and police had a difficult time convincing some of the people in the small room to leave to allow the judge to start the proceedings. Activists said Barrak was brought to the courts complex by the elite special forces backed by armoured vehicles and was handcuffed and in leg chains. But when he arrived in the court, his hands and legs were free but he was closely surrounded by several officers.

The courtroom broke into applause as Barrak walked into the room, dressed in a dark brown prison uniform. People rushed towards him, with some managing to hug or kiss him. Others began chanting slogans in his support. Around 30 lawyers had registered to defend Barrak. A number of lawyers strongly objected at allowing police officers to enter the courtroom while carrying arms. But they left the room before the trial began.

As the judge read the charges, Barrak categorically denied them, saying that what he said did not constitute any insult or slander against the judicial council and its chairman. He also started to explain what he said at the public rally on June 10 about the head of the judicial council Faisal Al-Marshed, but the judge stopped him. Barrak stressed that the reasons for detention specified in the law did not apply to him and that his detention was illegal. Barrak is facing the charges as a result of two lawsuits filed by the judicial council and its chairman.

The former lawmaker also said that he was mistreated at the criminal investigation department where he was detained for one day before being sent to prison. He said that at the CID, officers refused to provide him with his medicine or suhoor, a meal taken at dawn before the start of the day’s fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.

Defense lawyer Thamer Al-Jadaei called on the judge for releasing his client immediately, casting doubts about the way he was arrested and then sent into detention. He said the public prosecutor, who ordered his detention, is a member of the judicial council which sued him. The lawyer insisted that the arrest and detention of Barrak is illegal because it violated the law, and accordingly “Barrak must be freed by the force of law”. “We cannot accept in Kuwait that the supreme judicial council becomes a police station,” said Jadaei.

At this point, the judge announced the decision to free Barrak on bail. The courtroom broke into cheers and some people began chanting slogans in praise of Barrak, who was taken away by the special forces. Barrak’s release came following five nights of clashes between Barrak and opposition activists as supporters staged protests every night. The latest demonstration was staged Sunday night in Kuwait City and was dispersed by force by police. Activists said around 30 activists were arrested Sunday, raising the number of detained activists to over 50.

The Interior Ministry also categorically denied rumors that a police officer participated in the demonstration in Kuwait City. Rumors on social networks had speculated that an officer assigned to disperse the demonstration had actually joined the protestors. “These rumors are baseless,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement yesterday. “This is a desperate attempt from troublemakers to damage the reputation of security officers by questioning their national duty and commitment to protecting the general interests.”

The ministry had also indicated in an earlier statement yesterday that police officers were forced to use sound grenades in order to break up an unlicensed march in the commercial district of Kuwait City. Police were also left with no other choice but to intervene and arrest some of the protestors after they refused to cooperate, the ministry added. Meanwhile, the ministry reiterated commitment to continue law enforcement and take firm action against illegal gatherings and demonstrations in order to safeguard people as well as public and private properties.

Barrak had told a public gathering last month that former senior officials had stolen billions of dinars in public funds and were involved in money laundering. Later, Sheikh Ahmad Fahd Al-Sabah filed a lawsuit charging the same officials. Sheikh Ahmad has been questioned twice over the issue as a witness.

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