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Feb 22, 11:59 AM EST

Leading Kuwait opposition figure sentenced to 2 years


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Leading Kuwait opposition figure sentenced to 2 years

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KUWAIT CITY (AP) -- An appeals court in Kuwait on Sunday sentenced a leading former opposition lawmaker to two years in prison after he was found guilty of insulting the country's ruler.

Musallam al-Barrack's lawyer Thamer al-Jedaei told The Associated Press his client will appeal the case to the country's Supreme Court.

Al-Barrack's charges stem from a speech he gave during a rally in October 2012 in which he called on Kuwait's ruler Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah not to "drag the country into a dark abyss," and said Kuwait risked becoming an autocratic state under new electoral laws. Due to subsequent opposition boycotts, parliament is now largely stacked with pro-government lawmakers.

Kuwait, one of Washington's most important Mideast allies, prides itself on having the most free-wheeling political system of all the Gulf Arab monarchies, but it is illegal to insult the ruling emir.

Al-Barrack was originally sentenced to five years in prison by a lower court, but the appeals court overturned that verdict and issued a shorter two-year sentence Sunday. Al-Barrack was allowed to remain free on bail while he fought the charges against him.

His supporters planned a sit-in outside of his house Sunday evening to protest his sentence.

After the verdict was announced, al-Barrack told local media he is ready to face prison but warned that his ideas are already part of the public discourse.

"Even if they can imprison me, they cannot imprison ideas. The idea of what I said in that speech is out there," he said in remarks published by Kuwait's al-Aan news website.

He was last arrested in July for five days after he revealed documents alleging huge sums of illicit financial transfers were made to senior officials, including naming specific judges in Kuwait. In the days following his arrest, protesters took to the streets in his hometown province of Jahra, southeast of the capital Kuwait City. Protesters there burned tires and some fired flares at security officers.

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