Bloomberg News

Kuwait Police Arrest 21 Activists Who Stormed Parliament

November 24, 2011

(Updates with increase in number of arrests in first paragraph, clashes with police in second.)

Nov. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Police in Kuwait arrested 21 activists wanted in connection with the storming of the parliament building last week, a lawyer acting for members of the political opposition said.

Warrants have been issued for 47 people, the lawyer, Faisal al-Zafiri, told reporters today in Salmiyah, south of Kuwait City. Opposition supporters gathered outside the Criminal Investigation Department, where the suspects are being held, clashed with riot police during a protest against the arrests, and at least five were injured, according to activists.

Opposition lawmakers, who aren’t among those being prosecuted, led protesters into the parliament during the incident, which followed clashes between demonstrators and riot police at a rally to demand the ouster of Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammed al-Sabah. Some in the opposition movement want a constitutional monarchy and an elected government, while others speak of fighting corruption and call for political reform without amending the constitution.

Demands for a change of government have grown since September, seven months after the first demonstration demanding that Sheikh Nasser quit.

Kuwait’s National Assembly won’t be dissolved and the prime minister and government won’t be forced to resign, Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah told editors of local newspapers in a Nov. 20 meeting.

No Leniency

The ruler said that leniency shown to protesters “when the matter was at an individual level” will not be repeated for those involved in the storming of parliament on what he called “Black Wednesday.”

“The law will be enforced on all those involved in those regrettable events,” the emir said in comments carried by all local newspapers.

A number of people have already handed themselves in to police, along with supporters who didn’t take part in the storming of parliament, according to al-Subai, who is among a team of lawyers defending those arrested. Their backers are leading an “arrest us all” campaign in solidarity with those for whom warrants have been issued, al-Subai said.

Sheikh Nasser, a nephew of the emir, has survived three confidence votes in parliament since his appointment in 2006 and been forced to form seven separate administrations.

Opposition lawmakers on Nov. 15 submitted another request to question the premier, this time over a corruption scandal allegedly involving the transfer of millions of dollars into lawmakers’ bank accounts, and allegations that the prime minister transferred public funds into his foreign bank accounts. The government has denied the accusations.

--Editors: Ben Holland, Karl Maier.

To contact the reporter on this story: Fiona MacDonald in Kuwait at fmacdonald4@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Shaji Mathew at shajimathew@bloomberg.net.


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