KUWAIT CITY – A former Kuwaiti minister of information who runs an online news site has been jailed for a week over an article critical of government spending, his lawyer said Sunday.
Saad bin Tefla was arrested Saturday night at an airport security checkpoint as he tried to leave the country for Saudi Arabia to perform a religious pilgrimage, lawyer Alhumaidi al-Subaie told The Associated Press.
Bin Tefla is the publisher of the Alaan news site and a professor at Kuwait University. He served as the country's information from 1999 to 2000.
He was stopped after a court found him guilty Thursday of insulting Finance Minister Anas al-Saleh in a 2012 article that was critical of government spending. Al-Saleh brought the lawsuit against bin Tefla soon after the article was published.
Bin Tefla was not notified of the court ruling and was convicted in absentia, his lawyer said. He said his client will appeal the sentence in court on Monday.
Alaan was Kuwait's first online newspaper and has been one of the most outspoken vehicles for Kuwaiti opposition members in recent years. It often covers large protests with live feeds and publishes raw video of riot police clashing with civilians.
Kuwaiti authorities last week detained a former liberal lawmaker for tweets criticizing the Arab Gulf country's ruler and his support for Egypt's president. The former parliament member, Saleh al-Mullah, wrote on Twitter that Kuwaitis have grown tired of the country's money being given to boost other governments. Kuwait has pledged at least $4 billion to Egypt's government following the ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi from power in mid-2013.
Kuwait has the most free-wheeling political system among the Gulf Arab states and a vibrant press, but media rights watchdogs have raised concerns about government actions against journalists and news outlets.
Allegations of government corruption remain a hot-button issue in the tiny OPEC nation, with opposition supporters holding a rally against graft last year.