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Tweets land Kuwaiti seven years in prison

Kuwaiti Islamist-Shiite Member of Parliament Hussein Al Qallaf gesture towards opposing MP's during a heated debate over the situation in Syria in Kuwait's National Assembly's session on Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. A citizen of the Gulf Arab country was recently convicted of having insulted the Shi’ite faith and its scholars with comments that damaged Kuwait’s image.

Gustavo Ferrari/Gustavo Ferrari/AP

A Kuwaiti court sentenced a local Sunni Muslim writer to seven years in jail and ordered that he pay nearly $18,000 in compensation after ruling that he had insulted the Gulf state's Shi'ite Muslim minority on Twitter.

The court said Kuwaiti Mohammad al-Mulaifi posted falsehoods about sectarian divisions in the Gulf Arab country and insulted the Shi'ite faith and its scholars with comments that damaged Kuwait's image.

He was arrested in February and his comments triggered protests by Shi'ites, according to Kuwaiti media. His lawyer was not immediately available for comment.

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Twitter is very popular in Kuwait, where many public figures use the site to debate current events, swap gossip and share news. But the public messaging site has landed several users in trouble with Kuwaiti authorities.

Police arrested a Kuwaiti Shi'ite last month, accusing him of insulting the Prophet Mohammad on his Twitter account. He denied this, saying his account was hacked, according to his lawyer.

Dozens of Sunni activists protested last week to condemn the man and some members of parliament called for his execution.

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.

Kuwaiti MPs from across the political spectrum have voiced concern about sectarian tensions. The unease reflects a wider regional trend, especially in Bahrain where the Sunni monarchy has launched a crackdown on protesters who are mainly Shi'ites.

Shi'ites make up around 30 per cent of Kuwait's roughly 1 million native citizens.

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