KUWAIT CITY (AP) -- Three former Kuwaiti opposition lawmakers were sentenced to three years hard labor Tuesday for insulting the country's ruler in the latest crackdown on perceived political dissent in the Gulf nation, a defense lawyer said.
The sentences are part of an escalating backlash from authorities as the oil-rich country faces growing political unrest. Kuwait has the Gulf's most free-wheeling political system and a vibrant press, but denouncing the Western-backed emir is illegal.
The charges against the former parliament members -- Falah al-Sawwagh, Bader al-Dahoum and Khaled al-Tahous -- stem from speeches made at rallies opposing changes to Kuwait's voting rules.
Defense lawyer Khaled al-Juaisri said he planned to appeal. A statement by Kuwait's information minister, Salman Al Sabah, stressed that the country's judiciary grants fair trials to "all citizens, regardless of their position."
On Sunday, rights groups say a Kuwait court sentenced a Twitter user to five years in prison for a post considered offensive to the emir. Similar sentences have been issued recently in Kuwait and other Gulf countries.
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