KUWAIT: Several MPs and activists yesterday blasted a decision by Minister of Justice and Awqaf and Islamic Affairs Yacoub Al-Sane to reportedly ban senior Sunni preacher Othman Al-Khamees from the ministry. The decision to suspend Khamees from giving Friday sermons and religious lectures at mosques has not been officially announced yet, but was widely reported on social media and harshly criticized by activists.

Khamees, a leading cleric, was last week fined KD 20,000 for allegedly insulting Shiites. The ruling is not final as it can be challenged before the appeals and cassation courts. Former Islamist MP Mohammad Hayef said the decision is not correct and called on the minister to revise the decision because it is not directed against Khamees only.

MP Abdullah Al-Turaiji called on the minister to withdraw the decision since no final ruling has been issued against Khamees, adding that the minister should have waited for the final verdict from the supreme court. The lawmaker said that several administrative procedures should have been followed before taking the decision, especially since Khamees is a well-known preacher and has many followers. Turaiji also claimed that the ministry has not given the same harsh treatment to Shiite cleric Hussein Al-Maatouq, who is on trial for insulting security authorities.

MP Abdulrahman Al-Jeeran said there is no legal justification for the decision and warned it could trigger a crisis with the government. MP Fares Al-Otaibi sent a series of questions to the awqaf minister inquiring if the decision to suspend Khamees had been actually issued. He also asked if the suspension applies only to Friday sermons or to other lectures too. He demanded to know the reasons for the decision and asked if it was influenced by pressure from any side.

Meanwhile, rapporteur of the National Assembly's public funds committee MP Saif Al-Azemi categorically denied that the panel's investigation on the issue of the Dow project was not neutral. He said that the committee completed its investigation and interviewed all people concerned and recommended that it be referred to the public prosecution for possible legal action. The lawmaker said the report includes all the necessary documents, adding that the final decision on the report will be taken by the Assembly during the debate of the report, probably next week.

The committee investigated why Kuwait unilaterally scrapped a multibillion-dollar joint venture with US' Dow Chemical and why the government rushed the payment of a $2.2 billion fine ordered by an international arbitrator. However, MP Ahmad Al-Qudhaibi, who claimed the report was incomplete, reiterated his claims yesterday saying that it appears there are some who want to protect thieves of public funds. He said the committee report does not include previous investigations by the government and the Audit Bureau and insisted that a number of officials connected to the issue had not been summoned for investigation. The lawmaker vowed that he will expose key information not included in the report, adding that all those who played a role in the issue must be punished.

Separately, a United Arab Emirates court yesterday sentenced former Islamist MP Mubarak Al-Duwailah to five years in jail for allegedly insulting the UAE and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed. A Kuwaiti court last week acquitted Duwailah of the same charges in a case filed by the foreign ministry. The remarks were made by Duwailah during an interview with the National Assembly's satellite channel.

By B Izzak