Manama: A religious figure who had been stripped of his Kuwaiti nationality after he insulted iconic Islamic figures was on Wednesday sentenced to 15 years in prison.
A criminal court in Kuwait City found Yasser Al Habeeb guilty of insulting Aisha, the wife of Prophet Mohammad [PBUH] and daughter of the first Caliph Abu Baker Al Siddique. The decision was based on a 1970 legal text related to state security crimes.
The verdict, if not challenged, is likely to put Al Habeeb on Interpol’s wanted list and arrested, Al Aan news portal reported.
Kuwait in September last year stripped the controversial figure of his citizenship after it accused him accusing him of heinous crimes that prejudiced Kuwaitis and Muslims and threatened social peace.
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The citizenship revocation decision was based on Article 13 of the 1959 Kuwaiti Citizenship Law, Kuwait said.
Al Habeeb who lives in London where he has exiled himself since 2004 has caused divisive social problems after he hosted a ceremony in his office in the English capital in August 2010 and made disparaging remarks against Aisha.
Aisha is venerated by Muslims as the Mother of the Believers and Al Habeeb’s insults to her integrity and honour triggered vociferous protests and caused rallies by Kuwaitis.
In announcing the decision to strip Al Habeeb of his citizenship, the Kuwaiti government did not directly refer to the London insults or to Al Habeeb’s sect. Observers believe that the government’s cautious explanations sought not to deepen rifts between Sunnis and Shiites and to disassociate Al Habeeb from Kuwaiti Shiites who condemned his behaviour.
Calls by Sunni leaders to the government to take stringent action against Al Habeeb, including stripping him of his nationality, prompted Shiite leaders to press for equally strong attitudes towards people guilty of making negative remarks about Shiites.
Al Habeeb was sentenced to prison in Kuwait in 2003 for reportedly inciting sectarianism by cursing iconic figures the Sunni sect, but was released after spending only three months.
The authorities later said that it was an “administrative mistake” and a warrant to re-arrest him was issued. However, he fled Kuwait to Iraq. He later left for Iran and then to London where he was given political asylum. He was sentenced to 10 years in absentia.