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Jailed activists in Kuwait announce formation of new political party

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The photo taken on June 18, 2017 shows a general view of the Palace of Justice in Kuwait City, which is home to Kuwait's Supreme Court. (AFP photo)

A group of imprisoned activists in Kuwait have announced the formation of a new political party despite Kuwait’s general ban on such moves.

A relative of one of the main political prisoners said Wednesday that behind the formation of Kuwait's Democratic Party were a hospital CEO, a human rights activist, a surgeon and a private school administrator.

They were all sentenced to prison in late November, when a total of 67 people were found guilty of charges related to protests in 2011 that led to a brief capture of Kuwait’s parliament.  

A statement circulating on social media said the Democratic Party, launched earlier this week, was seeking reforms and more freedom for dissent in Kuwait, a tiny state in the Persian Gulf region that has seen increasing calls for change since a wave of democratic movements began in the Arab world six years ago.

The calls have, however, hardly targeted the ruling al-Sabah family and have mostly focused on alleged corruption in the premiership office. The 2011 protests that led to the imprisonment of activists came amid a probe by opposition lawmakers into the alleged transfer of state funds by government officials to accounts outside Kuwait.

In 2013, a lower court acquitted all defendants in the protests case but the ruling was contested by the public prosecutor and jail terms were issued. Kuwait's court of cassation could now grant bail to the convicts and even accept their appeal of the November rulings.

Unlike many Arab states of the region, Kuwait tolerates limited political activism although it does not recognize any political party. The founders of the Democratic Party said in the new statement that their political bloc would represent Kuwaitis of different backgrounds who believe in reform, diversity, equality, freedom, and justice.

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