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June 24, 2017

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Kuwait extends detention of dissident

KUWAIT CITY--Kuwait's public prosecutor on Wednesday extended the detention of prominent opposition leader Mussallam al-Barrak over remarks deemed critical of the emir, in a crackdown on dissent ahead of December snap polls, his lawyer said.

Candidates, meanwhile, began registering for the Dec. 1 legislative polls amid a total boycott by the opposition.

"The attorney decided to detain Barrak for 10 days starting from Monday, the day he was arrested, pending further investigation," Mohammad Abdulqader al-Jassem told AFP.

Former MP Barrak was interrogated for five hours on Tuesday on accusations that he undermined the status of the emir at a rally on Oct. 15 when he warned against amending the disputed electoral law and also cautioned Kuwait was becoming autocratic.

The prosecutor, however, freed another opposition figure former MP Faisal al-Muslim on a US$355 bail after questioning him on similar charges, his lawyer Abdullah al-Muslim said on Twitter.

Muslim was the sixth former opposition MP to have been summoned for interrogation on accusations of making public remarks critical of Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah.

Last week, the court released three former opposition lawmakers after five days in custody on similar accusations and freed a fourth former MP after a brief interrogation.

Separately, the foreign ministry said late Tuesday it would take legal action against Jassem, who is also a prominent opposition writer, over an article deemed offensive to leaders in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

In his blog Tuesday, Jasseym warned Saudi King Abdullah and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, that protests in Kuwait could quickly trigger similar events in their countries.

He also criticized the two leaders' reported support and encouragement of the Kuwaiti crackdown.

Jassem told AFP on Wednesday that the authorities have yet to notify him of any legal action.

"I have not broken the law in my article and did not threaten anyone," he said. He was jailed on three occasions in 2009, 2010 and 2011 for a total of over four months for allegedly criticizing the emir and former premier.

The current crisis flared after the government decided to amend the electoral law in what the opposition claims is a step aimed at electing a rubber-stamp parliament.

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