Kuwaiti opposition leader released after two year imprisonment

In February 2015, Barrak Mussallam al-Barrak was sentenced to two years in jail for comments he made at a 2012 public rally against the status of the ruling leader, Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Supporters of Kuwaiti opposition leader Mussallam al-Barrak celebrates his release from jail on April 21, 2017 in Kuwait City.

Prominent Kuwaiti opposition leader Mussallam al-Barrak was released from prison on Friday after serving a two-year sentence for insulting the ruling leader in public.

In February 2015, Barrak was sentenced to two years in prison for comments he made at a 2012 public rally which undermined the status of the ruling Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.

Barrak, 61, walked free from Kuwait's central prison to a frenzied reception by relatives and supporters who broke through a security cordon and surrounded his vehicle.

The former lawmaker, who served six consecutive terms from 1999 to 2012, openly criticised the government upon his release.

"One day I said and I repeat: History will jail those who sent me to jail," Barrak, still wearing a beige prison uniform, shouted to the cheering crowd.

Barrak said he was not given a "fair trial" and denied he had insulted the ruler as he had only expressed his "political opinion".

"The only way to forge reforms is through an elected government with its leader winning through the ballot box," Barrak said.

Barrak had been protesting against changes to the kingdom's electoral law which he argued would allow the authorities to manipulate election results.

He is the most senior, and the most popular, opposition leader to be jailed in an unprecedented crackdown on dissent in Kuwait.

Under Kuwait's political system, the prime minister has always been a senior member of the ruling family appointed by the emir regardless of the outcome of an election.

Dozens of opposition activists are either in jail or are facing trial for insulting the emir, including via social media.​