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Kuwait supreme court upholds 2-year prison sentence against opposition leader on insult charge

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KUWAIT CITY — Kuwait's supreme court on Monday upheld a verdict and the two-year prison sentence against opposition leader Musallam al-Barrack on charges he insulted the country's ruler, his lawyer said.

Attorney Thamer al-Jedaei told The Associated Press that his client, a former lawmaker, will surrender to authorities once court paperwork is complete.

"We respect the judicial system, and my client will turn himself in once we receive the appropriate documents," he said.

Al-Barrack was originally sentenced to five years in prison by a lower court, but that sentence was shortened on appeal to two years behind bars in February. He was released on bail last month pending a final decision.

PHOTO: FILE - In this Monday, April 20, 2015 file photo, supporters gather around opposition leader Musallam al-Barrack, center, after his release on bail ahead of a final decision on charges he insulted the country's ruler, in Kuwait City.  On Monday, May, 18, 2015, Thamer al-Jedaei, told The Associate Pressa that the country's supreme court has upheld a verdict and the two-year prison sentence against the former lawmaker on charges he insulted the country's ruler. (AP Photo, File)
FILE - In this Monday, April 20, 2015 file photo, supporters gather around opposition leader Musallam al-Barrack, center, after his release on bail ahead of a final decision on charges he insulted the country's ruler, in Kuwait City. On Monday, May, 18, 2015, Thamer al-Jedaei, told The Associate Pressa that the country's supreme court has upheld a verdict and the two-year prison sentence against the former lawmaker on charges he insulted the country's ruler. (AP Photo, File)

The case against him stems from a speech al-Barrack gave in October 2012 urging Kuwait's ruler Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah not to "drag the country into a dark abyss" while charging that Kuwait risked becoming an autocratic state under new electoral laws. Subsequent boycotts by the opposition have left parliament largely stacked with pro-government lawmakers.

Oil-rich Kuwait is a close U.S. ally that hosts American troops and aircraft, including ones conducing airstrikes against Islamic State militants who control large parts of Iraq and Syria.

Kuwait has the most free-wheeling political system of all the Gulf Arab monarchies, but it is illegal to insult the ruling emir.

A protest in Kuwait City in March in solidarity with al-Barrack turned violent when hundreds his supporters defied government regulations and marched toward the parliament building. Riot police used batons against protesters, arresting at least a dozen.

Al-Barrack was arrested and briefly detained in a different case last summer after he revealed documents alleging huge sums of illicit financial transfers were made to senior officials, including judges in Kuwait.

His supporters protested in his hometown province of Jahra, southeast of the capital, after that arrest, burning tires and firing flares at security officers.

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