Different opinions on if MPs can return home without being arrested
MP Waleed Al-Tabtabai and MP Jamaan Al-Harbash
KUWAIT: The National Assembly’s vote late on Tuesday has divided constitutional experts, lawmakers and politicians on whether the vote to keep their membership despite receiving a jail term was in line with the constitution or not. The assembly voted 31 against 29 with two abstentions to maintain the parliamentary seats of opposition MPs Waleed Al-Tabtabai and Jamaan Al-Harbash after a heated debate in the assembly.
Some constitutional experts insisted that the vote was illegal and the two lawmakers’ membership has automatically been revoked after they were sentenced to a jail term for entering the national assembly building during a protest in November 2011. Other constitutional experts however insisted that the assembly vote was totally in line with the constitution, recalling that the assembly enjoyed full rights to decide on the membership.
Still, there were different opinions expressed on whether the two lawmakers, currently outside Kuwait, can return to the country without being arrested. Opposition MP Mohammad Al-Mutair said yesterday that Harbash and Tabtabai are welcome to return to Kuwait and practice their duties as members of parliament.
Mutair said that the interior ministry has no right to arrest them if they return to the country without a vote in the national assembly. He added that if police arrests them, he will file to grill the interior minister.
In the meantime, MP Yousef Al-Fadhalah, one of two MPs who abstained in the voting, said yesterday that he abstained deliberately because the voting was against the constitution. Fadhalah said he believes that the membership of the two MPs had already been revoked immediately after the court convicted them and sent them to jail. He said he is convinced that the mechanism of the voting was unconstitutional and accordingly he opted not to participate in the voting.
Meanwhile, cabinet sources said that the government did not put pressure on pro-government MPs to vote to revoke the two lawmakers’ membership. “MPs were left to vote freely on the matter, which is considered new to Kuwait’s parliamentary life,” said the sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity. They added meanwhile that the cabinet plans to go to the constitutional court to contest the two MPs’ membership.
By B Izzak and A Saleh
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