CPJ calls on Kuwait to drop charges against al-Jassem

New York, June 28, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Kuwaiti authorities to drop all charges against journalist Mohammed Abdulqader al-Jassem, who was released on bail today. CPJ is also alarmed by local news reports that the Ministry of Information will prosecute Al-Jazeera’s office in Kuwait for violating a ban on local coverage of al-Jassem’s case after the station broadcast a protest organized by a parliamentarian in solidarity with the journalist.

Al-Jassem was arrested on May 11 and charged with “instigating to overthrow the regime,” “slight to the personage of the emir,” and “instigating to dismantle the foundations of Kuwaiti society” based on articles critical of the government published on his website. CPJ issued a letter to Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah on June 18 protesting al-Jassem’s detention. He was released on bail of 2,000 dinars (US$6,861), according to Reuters.

Al-Jassem told CPJ today that he is facing multiple charges in several complaints and he has a hearing on July 12 in a case in which he is accused of insulting the prime minister. “The political persecution continues,” al-Jassem said.

“By jailing Mohammed Abdulqader al-Jassem and censoring Al-Jazeera, the Kuwaiti government clearly hopes this embarrassing situation will disappear, but their repressive actions are fueling international outrage,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “The only way to end the controversy is to drop the charges against al-Jassem and allow media in Kuwait, including Al-Jazeera, to do their job.”

Abdullah alAhmad, al-Jassem’s lawyer, told CPJ that the international community “contributed in an effective way to achieve a breakthrough in this case.” He said the next hearing in the May case is scheduled for September 20.

Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper reported today that the Ministry of Information is planning to “take legal and administrative procedures” against Al-Jazeera’s office in Kuwait.