Court restores citizenship of pro-opposition TV owner MP files request to grill justice minister
KUWAIT: The administrative lower court yesterday ordered the government to restore the citizenship of pro-opposition Al-Youm television owner Ahmad Jabr Al-Shemmari, more than two years after it was revoked. In a landmark ruling, the court also abolished the Amiri decree that withdrew the citizenship of Shemmari and his four children, and ordered the government to return the nationality to them “immediately” without waiting for the rulings of the appeals and cassation courts.
The court also ordered the government to pay KD 5,001 in temporary compensation for Shemmari, a verdict that could open the way for him to seek much larger damages. After revoking his nationality in July 2014, the government shut down Al-Youm television and Alam Al-Youm newspaper, both owned by him, on the basis that media licenses must be in the name of Kuwaiti citizens only.
The verdict came after more than two years of a legal battle in which the lower court initially rejected Shemmari’s petition on the grounds that courts cannot look into nationality cases because they are “sovereign” issues. This verdict was upheld by the appeals court. But the court of cassation, whose rulings are final, earlier this year ruled that courts can look into these issues and ordered the lower court to hear the case again.
The ruling will also open the way for a large number of opposition figures to resort to court, who were stripped of their citizenship amid a government crackdown on the opposition during a political crisis in the country.
They include former Islamist MP Abdullah Al-Barghash and about 60 members of his family and relatives whose nationalities were revoked along with Shemmari. The lower court had ordered the government to restore Barghash’s citizenship, but the ruling was overturned by the appeals court, which said courts were not competent to rule on citizenship matters. His case is still at the court of cassation, which set the next hearing for mid-November.
Others who had their citizenship revoked include Islamist preacher Sheikh Nabil Al-Awadhi and opposition activist Saad Al-Ajmi, who was deported to Saudi Arabia. They all have cases in courts. Shemmari said after the ruling that he had no doubt that the fair Kuwaiti judiciary would eventually rule in his favor. His lawyer Al-Humaidi Al-Subaiei described the ruling as “historic” and thanked the judiciary.
Explaining its verdict, the court said the government’s decision was “unlawful” and oppressive, because it breached the constitution. It said that Shemmari obtained Kuwaiti nationality by birth because he was born to a Kuwaiti father, and accordingly his citizenship cannot be revoked.
In another major development yesterday, MP Ahmad Al-Qudhaibi filed a request to grill Minister of Islamic Affairs and Justice Yaqoub Al-Sane for excessively delaying the issuance of the bylaws of the Anti-Corruption Authority (ACA). The lawmaker said that in December last year, the constitutional court abolished the establishment of ACA, saying it was unconstitutional because of procedural flaws in the establishment law. He said that three weeks later, the National Assembly voted to pass the same law after introducing key amendments to plug loopholes, and the law was finally published on Feb 1 this year.
This required the justice ministry, being responsible for the ACA, to issue the bylaws for the authority within two months in accordance with the law to enable it to start working. But the minister failed until now to issue the bylaws, which means that he obstructed it from starting to function and effectively prevented the authority from receiving wealth disclosures from ministers, MPs and top bureaucrats.
The grilling will be announced on the opening day of the new Assembly term on Oct 18, and the minister can then ask for a two-week delay. Several other lawmakers are currently preparing similar requests to grill Finance Minister Anas Al-Saleh for being responsible for raising petrol prices. Two groups of MPs have already said they will file grilling requests against Saleh, and sources said a third may be on the way.
The flurry of grillings made pro-government MP Saadoun Hammad to say that he believes that the Assembly will be dissolved soon, and what remains is to determine the date, which is in the hands of HH the Amir. In a related development, five MPs submitted a draft law stipulating to ban the government from raising petrol prices without a law from the Assembly.