PEN International's Writers in Prison Committee is deeply concerned about the one-year prison sentence handed down to Kuwaiti writer, journalist and blogger Mohammed Abdulqader al-Jassem on 22 November 2010 for an article he wrote on his blog, Al-Mizan, criticising the country's Prime Minister. PEN International considers that he is targeted solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Kuwait is a party, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release. It also calls upon the authorities to take all necessary steps to guarantee his safety and protection from re-arrest as a matter of urgency.
According to PEN's information, a criminal court in the capital, Kuwait City, sentenced the journalist Muhammad 'Abd al-Qader al-Jassem on 22 November 2010 after he was convicted of criminal defamation in a case filed against him by the Prime Minister, Shaikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah, for an article published in 2009. The sentence began immediately and Muhammad 'Abd al-Qader al-Jasem is held at Kuwait Central Prison.
The case is among eighteen that the government has reportedly filed against the journalist for his writings, four of which were brought by the Prime Minister in the last year. Al-Jassem was acquitted in two out of the four cases. He was arrested most recently in May 2010 and held for several weeks for "attacking national unity" and defaming the Prime Minister in his blog. He was freed on bail on 28 June 2010. According al-Jassem's lawyer, he faces charges varying from defamation to "instigating to overthrow the regime." A special section has been set up within the Ministry of Justice to look exclusively into the cases against al-Jassem.
• Statement by Amnesty International (26 November 2010): http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/kuwait-urged-release-blogger-who-criticized-prime-minister-2010-11-26
• IFEX (1 December 2010): http://www.ifex.org/kuwait/2010/12/01/al_jassem_jailed/