A Kuwaiti man accused of insulting the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) on Twitter has denied making any such comments, saying that his account must have been hacked, his lawyer said on Tuesday.
The Interior Ministry said last week that authorities had arrested a man on suspicion of defaming the Islamic faith and the Prophet, his companions and his wife on the messaging site.
The ministry did not name the man but said he was being held ahead of court proceedings. Lawyer Khaled al-Shatti confirmed the man being held was his client Hamad al-Naqi, from Kuwait’s Shi’ite Muslim minority.
Dozens of Sunni activists protested last week to condemn Naqi, and some members of parliament have called for him to be executed. Several of Kuwait’s main newspapers have run editorials condemning the alleged act.
“He denies all accusations,” Shatti told Reuters. He quoted Naqi as telling authorities during an interrogation: “I am a Shi’ite Muslim. I cannot speak such words.”
Defaming Islam is illegal in Kuwait under the 1961 press and publications law, but is not usually punishable by death.
Naqi has not accused a specific person of posting the comments on his account but said he was sure his account had been hacked, his lawyer said.
An Interior Ministry spokesman was not immediately available for comment on the lawyer’s account.
Twitter is very popular in Kuwait, where many public figures use the site to debate current events and share gossip.
Kuwaiti authorities also searched Naqi’s computer and said they had found information showing he was a supporter of pro-democracy demonstrations in Bahrain, Shatti said.
Kuwait is particularly sensitive to developments in fellow Gulf state Bahrain where the Sunni Muslim monarchy has launched a crackdown on protesters who are mainly Shi’ite Muslims.
Kuwaiti MPs from across the political spectrum have voiced concern about sectarian tension in their country. Shi’ites make up around 30 percent of Kuwait’s roughly 1 million native citizens.
If Naqi is found guilty of insulting the Prophet then the penalty would be one year imprisonment, his lawyer said. If he is also convicted of “sedition” – specifically inciting strife -then the penalty is a maximum of 10 years.
In September a Kuwaiti court convicted a man for insulting Gulf rulers and posting inflammatory sectarian comments online, but he was released immediately because of time already served while awaiting trial, according to a human rights activist.