Kuwait's lower court has sentenced social media activists Ayyad al-Harbi and Rashed al-Enezi to two-year prison sentences for posting tweets that were deemed insulting to the Middle Eastern nation’s emir, reports Ahram Online. Harbi and Enezi are the first two individuals to be persecuted for Twitter posts in Kuwait.
The Associated Press reported that this is the beginning of a series of crackdowns by Western-allied Gulf Arab states that are taking perceived dissent more seriously.
Mohammad al-Humaidi, head of the independent Kuwait Society for Human Rights, broke the news of Harbi's sentencing via Twitter on Monday.
"Ayyad al-Harbi was sentenced to two years in jail," Humaid wrote, according to Ahram.
Enezi, 26, received his sentence from the Kuwaiti court on Sunday. The social media activist was immediately placed in police custody and brought to jail, according to Arab Times.
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The Arab news site reports Humaidi, who was in the courtroom during the sentencing, alleges that authorities misunderstood Enezi’s tweet.
“The charges were not based on solid accusations but on wrong interpretation of the tweets by authorities,” says Humadi, according to Arab Times. “Most of the charges are fabricated.”
Enezi's sentence was reported by Al-Watan newspaper, a pro-government news source, along with several other media outlets in the region.
The AP reported that the two-year sentences aren’t the harshest seen in the region for speaking out against the government or its officials. A poet was sent to prison for life after writing a poem that criticized the Qatari emir and was believed to encourage an overthrow of the government.