The sister of a prominent Kuwaiti blogger , on trial accused of insulting the head of state, said Thursday the charges against him were political and called for his release. Blogger and journalist Mohammad Abdul-Kader al-Jassem faces up to 18 years' imprisonment if convicted, according to his lawyers. He was detained on May 11 after a complaint against him was issued by the office of Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah. “We demand his release and the dropping of all charges against him,” his sister Sabiha Abdul-Kader al-Jassem told Reuters during a visit to London. “The charges are all political because of his criticism of the government.” She added: “What I want to say to the world is that Mohammad Abdul-Kader al-Jassem is a lawyer and author … and cannot in any way break the law in anything he does or writes. He practised his right, the right we in Kuwait have been used to, freedom of expression, freedom to write, freedom to publish.”

Sabiha Abdul-Kader al-Jassem said she was dismayed at the lack of tolerance of free speech in her country. “We are astonished at what is happening because we grew up not having these kinds of detentions …, we grew up with freedom of expression,” she said. Al-Jassem is also accused of spreading false news that could harm Kuwait's national interests. His trial opened on May 24 and the court banned Kuwaiti media from publishing reports about the case. Sabiha Abdul-Kader al-Jassem, a retired planning official, said her brother's criticism of the government on his website and in several books was motivated by a love of his country, not designed to campaign for a change of regime. “They should have responded to his views in a refined way, but one court case after the other … is just not acceptable,” she said. On his website, he criticised the ruling al-Sabah family and accused Prime Minister Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah of mismanagement and corruption.