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Commandos raid Barrak’s home as standoff worsens – Running battles in Andalus as police clash with protesters
Opposition demonstrators flee teargas and stun grenades fired by riot police in Andalus
KUWAIT TIMES: Elite special forces last night fired teargas and stun grenades against thousands of opposition demonstrators who marched on Andalus police station amid reports of several injuries. The clashed broke out hours after a raid by the special forces on the home of former opposition MP Musallam Al-Barrak, who has been sentenced to five years in jail on charges of insulting HH the Amir. It was like a battlefield with hundreds of grenades fired at the angry crowds, estimated at around 10,000 people, who marched from Barrak’s diwaniya to the nearby Andalus police station with the intention of storming it.
Police repulsed the attackers into the internal streets of Andalus, but fires broke out in the area’s cooperative society and in a municipality vehicle. Ambulances rushed to the scene with activists reporting on Twitter that several people were wounded. They posted a picture of at least one man with apparently serious wounds. The clashes are the first in more than two months and come after Barrak was handed a harsh sentence on charges on insulting the Amir in a speech at a public rally in October.
Elite forces raid Barrak’s house in another failed attempt to arrest him
Earlier in the day, a group of special forces surprisingly raided Barrak’s diwaniya amid claims that they mistreated the occupants of the house, all of whom are Barrak’s relatives. The special forces came to arrest the opposition figure to serve his five-year jail term. Barrak was not at his home and the special forces left the place after searching it and beating up a number of relatives of Barrak, who described the action as “cowardly”. The former lawmaker later said that he was prepared to go to prison anytime but only after authorities produce the original arrest warrant, which they have so far failed to do.
Interior Minister Sheikh Ahmad Al-Humoud Al-Sabah leaves the hall during a session at the National Assembly following disputes with MPs over the arrest of Barrak
The Interior Ministry later issued an official statement denying violating the law while trying to arrest Barrak. “The ministry fully realizes that we are a state of laws, institutions and constitution. The arrest attempt was conducted according to the law and upon the court order to locate and arrest Barrak,” the statement said, noting that in view of the chaos at the scene, the arrest force was assisted by a small group of special forces. The statement added that Jahra security director Maj Gen Ibrahim Al-Tarrah had notified the concerned parties of the arrest order but he was insulted by demonstrators on the scene. The statement added the forces advanced from the right and left side of the diwaniya and an office in the basement without seeing any women or children.
Barrak attends a demonstration near his house later
Barrak returned to his diwaniya after sunset to a thunderous reception by thousands of his supporters and tribesmen who welcomed him with gunfire from automatic machineguns. After Barrak addressed the protesters, reiterating that he was willing to give himself up, the crowds decided not to stage a procession like what they did on the previous two nights. But half an hour later, the supporters decided to stage a procession but this time towards the police station in the area. Witnesses said that the young protesters shot fireworks in retaliation of the police’s excessive use of teargas and stun grenades.
Earlier in the day, the National Assembly held a secret debate over the security developments in the country following the sentence against Barrak and the subsequent demonstrations. Ahead of the debate, several MPs criticised Interior Minister Sheikh Ahmad Al-Humoud Al-Sabah for failing to arrest Barrak and curb demonstrations, which they described as illegal. “There is a direct threat to the head of state… and a challenge to the judicial authority… These people (the opposition) hold no respect to the state, regime and the judiciary,” MP Maasouma Al-Mubarak said. “If he (Barrak) refuses arrest, we should send him armoured vehicles from the army and the national guard,” said Nabeel Al-Fadl, a pro-government lawmaker.
After the secret session, the minister called on Barrak to give himself up to authorities to serve his jail sentence and denied that the ministry has been selective in implementing court rulings. The minister also said that authorities have tried to implement the court order but Barrak refused, insisting that police officers had produced to Barrak the original arrest order as he wanted.
Earlier, unidentified activists hacked the information ministry website during the night and posted the speech of Barrak for which he was punished. “The ministry’s electronic website has been penetrated by hackers,” a source at the ministry said in a brief statement carried by the official KUNA news agency. “The ministry immediately suspended the site as a precautionary measure and will take legal measures against those who did this.”
The statement made no reference to the posting of Barrak’s speech, but activists on Twitter said the text of the speech had been visible on the site for some time. The ministry website remained suspended more than 10 hours after the cyber attack which happened at about midnight on Tuesday. But yesterday, the ministry played down the cyber attack, saying that only “an old page was actually hacked”.
By B Izzak, Staff Writer
LWDLIK -Strongly agree with MP Massouma Al-Mubarak. Perhaps, Mr Barrak (former MP) should give himself up before more people get injured.
I have a few questions:
Why was the convicted former MP not sent straight to jail immediately when judgement was passed?
Is Mr Barrak on-the-run? Will anyone found harbouring him be breaking the law?