KUWAIT CITY: Dozens of Kuwaiti activists staged an unprecedented protest Monday outside the courtroom where opposition leader and former MP Mussallam al-Barrak was being tried on charges of insulting the emir.
"Jail us in place of Mussallam al-Barrak," chanted the activists who were prevented entry into the small courtroom in the Palace of Justice in the heart of wait City.
"Mussallam ... you are the conscience of the whole nation."
It was the first time ever that a protest has taken place inside the Palace of Justice in Kuwait. Police did not interfere in the demonstration, which passed off peacefully.
Barrak is being tried on charges of insulting the ruler of the oil-rich Gulf state when he made remarks at a public rally on October 15 deemed offensive to the emir.
Activists carried Barrak as he came from the room and continued shouting slogans.
"On your behalf and on behalf of the nation, I declare that this (protest) movement will continue. Jails, batons and tear gas cannons will not stop us," Barrak told the crowd just outside the Palace of Justice.
"We are not against the regime but against corruption ... This is a war against corruption and corrupt people ... who are trying to steal the future of Kuwait," he said.
"It's time that people are allowed to manage their affairs through an elected government."
Thamer al-Jadaei, Barrak's main lawyer in the 40-strong team, said the court set the next hearing for February 11 to hear the final defence arguments.
If the court convicts Barrak, he faces a jail term of up to five years.
The opposition figure was detained for five days late October after making the remarks before he was released on bail of $35,500 and banned from leaving Kuwait.
The court is slated to issue its verdict on February 5 against three former opposition MPs who face similar charges.
Earlier this month, the court sentenced two opposition youth activists to two years in jail each for making tweets deemed insulting to the emir. Dozens of other tweeters face similar charges.
Kuwait's opposition has been staging protests to demand the dissolution of parliament elected last month on the basis of an electoral law that was amended by the emir.
The opposition claims that the change is not legal and is aimed at electing a rubber stamp parliament.