December 15, 2010

His Highness Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah
Emir of the State of Kuwait
Al-Diwan al-Amiri
Kuwait City
Fax: +965 539 3069

His Excellency Ahmed al-Baqir
Minister of Jusice
P.O. Box 6
Safat 13001
Fax: +965 243 3750

His Excellency Sheikh Jaber al-Khalid Al Sabah
Minister of Interior
Ministry of Interior
P.O. Box 12500
Shamiya 71655
Fax: +965 243 6570

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,500 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our concern regarding the one-year sentence handed down to journalist and blogger Mohammed Abdulqader al-Jassem.

According to our information, on November 22, 2010, a criminal court in Kuwait City convicted al-Jassem of criminal defamation in a case filed against him by Prime Minister Shaikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah, for an article published in 2009 on al-Jassem’s blog, Al-Mizan. The article criticized the prime minister for allowing Iranian intelligence to interfere in Kuwaiti politics. Al-Jassem’s one-year sentence began immediately and he is currently being held at Kuwait Central Prison.

This case is the latest among 18 that the government has reportedly filed against the journalist for his critical writings, four of which were brought by the prime minister in the last year. According to al-Jassem’s lawyer, he faces charges ranging from defamation to “instigating to overthrow the regime.” Al-Jassem was acquitted in two out of the four cases. A special section has been set up within the Ministry of Justice to look exclusively into the cases against him.

PEN American Center is deeply concerned about the one-year sentence given to journalist and blogger Mohammed Abdulqader al-Jassem, and we believe he is being punished solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Kuwait is a signatory. We therefore call for his immediate and unconditional release, and for guarantees that he will be protected from future arrest for expression of his critical views.

Thank you for your attention to this critical matter.

Hannah Pakula                   
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee                 
Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H.E. Salim al-Abdallah al-Jabir al-Sabah
Ambassador of the State of Kuwait to the United States
Embassy of the State of Kuwait in the United States
2940 Tilden Street NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 364-2868

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