Kuwait's top court frees leading opposition figure on bail in case over insulting ruler



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KUWAIT CITY — Kuwait's top court on Monday ordered leading opposition leader Musallam al-Barrack to be released on bail ahead of a final decision on charges he insulted the country's ruler, the activist's lawyer said.

The case against al-Barrack stems from a speech he gave during a rally in 2012. He called on Kuwait's ruling emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, not to "drag the country into a dark abyss," and said Kuwait risked becoming an autocratic state.

Lawyer Thamer al-Jedaei told The Associated Press that the Supreme Court ordered his client released on bail of 1,000 dinars ($3,310) ahead of a court hearing on May 18.

Al-Barrack was originally sentenced to five years in prison by a lower court, but an appeals court overturned that verdict and issued a shorter two-year sentence in February.

"We're all very happy to see al-Barrack free, and we are hopeful that the court's ruling next month will be in his favor," al-Jedaei said. "We're glad that he's out and can be among his supporters tonight."

Oil-rich Kuwait is a close U.S. ally in the Gulf that hosts American troops and aircraft, including ones conducing airstrikes against Islamic State militants who control large parts of Iraq and Syria.

The OPEC member nation prides itself on having the most free-wheeling political system of all the Gulf Arab monarchies, but it is illegal to insult the ruling emir.

Last month, a protest in Kuwait City in solidarity with al-Barrack turned violent when hundreds his supporters defied government regulations and marched from Irada Square toward the parliament building nearby. Riot police used batons against protesters, arresting at least a dozen.

Al-Barrack previously was arrested in July for five days after he revealed documents alleging huge sums of illicit financial transfers were made to senior officials, including judges in Kuwait. In the days following his arrest, protesters took to the streets in his hometown province of Jahra, southeast of the capital, Kuwait City. Protesters there burned tires and fired flares at security officers.

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