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Originally published Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 3:33 AM

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Kuwait sentences 3 former MPs for emir insults

Three former Kuwaiti opposition lawmakers were sentenced to three years hard labor Tuesday for insulting the country's ruler in the latest crackdown on perceived political dissent in the Gulf nation, a defense lawyer said.

The Associated Press

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KUWAIT CITY —

Three former Kuwaiti opposition lawmakers were sentenced to three years hard labor Tuesday for insulting the country's ruler in the latest crackdown on perceived political dissent in the Gulf nation, a defense lawyer said.

The sentences are part of an escalating backlash from authorities as the oil-rich country faces growing political unrest. Kuwait has the Gulf's most free-wheeling political system and a vibrant press, but denouncing the Western-backed emir is illegal.

The charges against the former parliament members - Falah al-Sawwagh, Bader al-Dahoum and Khaled al-Tahous - stem from speeches made at rallies opposing changes to Kuwait's voting rules.

Defense lawyer Khaled al-Juaisri said he planned to appeal. A statement by Kuwait's information minister, Salman Al Sabah, stressed that the country's judiciary grants fair trials to "all citizens, regardless of their position."

On Sunday, rights groups say a Kuwait court sentenced a Twitter user to five years in prison for a post considered offensive to the emir. Similar sentences have been issued recently in Kuwait and other Gulf countries.

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