Kuwaiti authorities detained a former liberal lawmaker overnight for questioning and on Wednesday ordered him held for 10 days for tweets criticizing the Arab Gulf country’s ruler and his support for Egypt’s president, a defense lawyer said.
Abdullah al-Ahmad said prosecutors began questioning Saleh al-Mullah late Tuesday about tweets he wrote on Monday, when Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi was in Kuwait for an official visit.
Al-Mullah — who was an independent and liberal lawmaker for three years until 2011 — wrote on Twitter that Kuwaitis have grown tired of the country’s money being given to boost other governments. Kuwait has pledged at least $4 billion to Sisi’s government following the ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi from power in mid-2013.
“Your highness, we won’t accept billions more handed out to other countries. We have donated enough. This is the money of the people of Kuwait,” al-Mullah wrote in Arabic in one tweet.
“The price of oil is $50 a barrel … Shame on you,” he wrote in another tweet, reflecting region-wide anxiety over the drop in global oil prices and its long-term effect on Arab Gulf countries’ public spending levels.
Al-Ahmad said his client is being accused of insulting the emir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, insulting Egypt’s president and endangering bilateral relations.
Billions of dollars in aid from Gulf countries has helped keep Egypt’s economy afloat. Sisi’s visit to Kuwait was aimed at shoring up Gulf investments and support after Egypt’s foreign reserves and tourism revenues plummeted from more than three years of political instability that began with longtime President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in 2011. Egypt’s foreign reserves stood at $15.33 billion at the end of December.
Al-Ahmed said al-Mullah denies the accusations and will request bail.
“There is no basis to these accusations, and there is no need to detain my client,” al-Ahmed said.
Activists have called for a protest Wednesday night to press for al-Mullah’s release.
Several thousand Kuwaitis protested last year against government corruption, demanding better services and transparency in government.