Kuwaiti sentenced to 7 years for offending Shiites on Twitter

Kuwait - A Kuwaiti writer will reportedly spend seven years in prison for making remarks on Twitter that offended Shiite Muslims, the latest in a string of sentences that have punished Kuwaitis for online talk.

Mohammad Mulaifi was charged with denigrating the Shiite sect and disseminating false information, among other charges, according to news reports Monday. During his imprisonment, he will be required to serve hard labor and pay a fine of nearly $18,000, the Kuwait Times reported.

“Everyone should know that doctrines are red lines and whoever crosses them will cause internal strife that may have a negative impact on the country and weaken national unity,” lawmaker Saleh Ashour told Gulf News.

Before he was sentenced, Mulaifi apologized to Shiites if they felt offended but said he had been misunderstood and had not insulted family members of the prophet Muhammad in his writings, the Arab Times wrote. It was unclear from news reports what exactly Mulaifi had written.

The Kuwaiti government has prosecuted people for making online remarks that are deemed offensive or divisive to the country. Another Kuwaiti man has been charged with defaming Islam on Twitter, which he denies doing, and is facing calls for his execution, Reuters recently reported. Two others were jailed for three months each for “sectarian remarks” on Twitter, the Daily Star in Lebanon wrote.

"Kuwaitis’ prolific Twitter use makes sense in a country known for allowing greater freedom of expression than nearly any other country in the Middle East," Human Rights Watch researcher Priyanka Motaparthy wrote last summer. Yet "recent attacks on people who have done nothing more than express opinions only discredit the government as paranoid, defensive, and woefully out-of-touch with the calls for democratic reform sweeping the region," she wrote.