Fadhl's immunity lifted, Harbash, Merdas spared

KUWAIT: MPs Mohammad Hayef and Safaa Al-Hashem trade barbs during a session of the National Assembly yesterday. - Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat

KUWAIT: Tense discussions overshadowed the National Assembly's regular session yesterday, leading speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem to adjourn the meeting for today ahead of time. MP Safaa Al-Hashem, the only female member in the Assembly, clashed with Islamist opposition lawmaker Mohammad Hayef because he refused to allow her to sit next to him during a meeting of the committee fighting alien phenomena.

Hashem complained to the Assembly in a letter that Hayef, who heads the committee, refused to allow her to sit in her regular seat next to him. Hayef said that he cannot sit next to a woman wearing perfume and dressed like a man. The two traded strong words before the speaker ended the confrontation.

Several pro-government lawmakers also clashed with opposition MPs over a request to lift the immunity of two leading opposition MPs Jamaan Al-Harbash and Nayef Al-Merdas to be tried by court over charges of insulting HH the Amir. But a legal and legislative committee report recommended that the immunities should not be lifted and also requested that no debate was needed on the issue.

However, MPs Saadoun Hammad and Ahmad Al-Fadhl strongly objected to halting the debate and demanded that a full discussion should take place on the issue because it relates to the Amir. Following the debate, the Assembly voted in support of the committee's decision. Harbash and Merdas were among dozens of opposition activists who repeated parts of a controversial speech by prominent opposition leader and former MP Musallam Al-Barrak, for which he was sentenced to two years in jail. A number of pro-government MPs openly charged that calculation of votes was tampered with and the actual result should have supported lifting the immunity of the two lawmakers.

The Assembly then voted to lift the immunity of Fadhl at the public prosecution's request. But Fadhl's secretary told Kuwait Times that Fadhl himself had sent a letter to the legislative committee requesting to lift his immunity, as he aims to stand in front of the judge to defend himself in any court case and clear his name. Up to 34 MPs, out of 47 attending, voted in favor of stripping the immunity of Fadhl in relation to an appeal case titled "Al-Salam's misdemeanor".

The Assembly could not debate a draft law stipulating to amend the administrative court law to allow legal recourse for those who have their citizenship revoked. But MP Waleed Al-Tabtabaei said that 10 lawmakers filed a petition yesterday calling to give priority for debating the amendment, which allows those who have their citizenship revoked to complain to the court.

At present, courts are not authorized under the law to debate citizenship issues because they are sovereign matters, although courts have repeatedly taken up citizenship complaints. Speaker Ghanem said that he received the petition, and will have the Assembly vote on it today. He however said that the government has the right under the constitution to request a delay of two weeks.

By B Izzak and Nawara Fattahova