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Opposition vows massive protest as Barrak jailed
March 3, 2015, 8:39 am

Lawyers of opposition leader Mussallam Al-Barrak yesterday filed appeals against his two-year jail sentence passed last week by the appeals court as the former lawmaker was taken to jail to start serving the sentence.

According to Kuwait Times report, Lawyer Thamer Al-Jadaei said that reasons for the challenge were submitted to the court of cassation yesterday, which is expected to start looking into Barrak's appeal very soon. Jadaei said that they will file a petition to release Barrak on bail only after a judge is appointed for the case. This could take a few days. In the first hearing, the judge will decide whether Barrak should remain in jail until the court issues its verdict or freed on bail pending trial.

Barrak was handed the tough sentence by the appeals court for allegedly insulting HH the Amir at a public rally against amending the electoral law. Police arrived at Barrak's residence late Sunday night, and after brief negotiations, agreed to go with the police following an emotional farewell by dozens of his supporters, who carried him and vowed to protest to secure his release. Opposition activists immediately launched a campaign on Twitter calling for a huge demonstration of 100,000 people to press for Barrak's freedom, but no details were provided about the protest.

In a related development, the appeals court yesterday acquitted former information minister Saad bin Taflah Al-Ajmi of charges of writing an article deemed offensive to the minister of finance. The court however convicted his former partner at Al-Aan electronic newspaper Zayed Al-Zaid and upheld a one-week jail term against him. Several weeks ago, Ajmi was arrested at Kuwait Airport while attempting to leave for the holy city of Makkah to perform umrah. He was detained for four days before being released on bail.

Meanwhile, MP Saadoun Hammad submitted a draft law proposing to amend the key electoral law, which has been at the center of the political crisis in the country. Hammad proposed that Kuwait should comprise of five constituencies, with each electing 10 MPs to the 50-seat Assembly, which is the same under the existing law. He however proposed increasing the number of votes a voter can cast from the existing one vote only to two votes. He explained that one vote must be given within the voter's constituency and the second to a candidate from other constituencies.

Under the present law, introduced in Oct 2010 at the height of a political crisis, each voter is allowed to vote for a single candidate in his/her own district. The opposition had strongly protested against the amendment, claiming it will enable the government to manipulate election results in its favor to strengthen its grip on the Assembly. All opposition groups boycotted subsequent polls because of the amendment.

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