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Court to examine order to shut two newspapers – Probe panel wants details on MPs’ finances

KUWAIT: The Al-Watan and Alam Al-Youm dailies yesterday challenged a judicial order to suspend them for two weeks, and the court has decided to look into their appeal today, lawyers said. The lawyers for the two newspapers demanded that the decision be reversed because it was not supported by law and called on the court to freeze the suspension decision until it has issued a verdict on the matter.

The two newspapers were ordered shut by a judge for allegedly breaking a news blackout. The two newspapers however continued to publish online and kept updating their stories yesterday. Al-Watan republished two articles it said were the reason for the order to shut it down.

MP Riyadh Al-Adasani meanwhile strongly criticized the information ministry for demanding the closure, saying that the action reflects a government policy to suppress freedom and silence people. He said that the government is also using the law to punish newspapers with decisions like this one to shut publications down even before a final court decision is made. The lawmaker said the news blackout prevents the media from publishing confidential information about the investigation and not publishing about the issue in general.

Adasani said the government is using articles of the press and publications law to unjustly penalize newspapers. The lawmaker threatened that the closure of any newspaper for any reason could force him and his colleagues to include the issue in their planned grilling against the prime minister. Adasani along with MPs Abdulkarim Al-Kundari and Hussein Quwaiaan are planning to file a request to grill the prime minister this week. In a related development, Kandari yesterday submitted a proposal to amend article 15 of the press and publications law to ban the withdrawal of a publication license or shut it down for a certain period without a final court verdict.

In another development, a parliamentary panel formed to probe allegations that former MPs received bribes decided yesterday to ask the ministry of finance and the Central Bank to supply the panel with information about former MPs whose bank accounts were inflated. The decision covers members of parliaments elected between 2006 and 2009 (three National Assemblies).

The committee will also ask the ministry of justice about any increase in real estate ownership and the ministry of commerce and industry about stockholdings of the same former lawmakers. The committee was formed to investigate allegations that MPs in the 2009 Assembly accepted millions of dinars in political bribes to influence their voting on critical issues. The case was investigated by the public prosecution but shelved on the basis that the country’s legislations were not sufficient to press charges.

By B Izzak

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