By Ahmed Hagagy
KUWAIT (Reuters) – At least three Kuwaiti dissidents returned to the Gulf state on Monday after being pardoned by the ruling emir, part of his efforts to ease tensions with the opposition, which has been locked in a months-long standoff with the government.
Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah, who has looked frail in his recent public appearances and asked the crown prince to carry out some duties on a temporary basis, has been working to meet conditions from the opposition to end a political impasse blocking fiscal reforms in Kuwait.
Sheikh Nawaf issued two decrees on Saturday granting pardons and reduced sentences to 35 dissidents, including 11 politicians who have lived in self-imposed exile in Turkey since fleeing prosecution in Kuwait over the last ten years.
Jamaan al-Harbesh, Mubarak Al-Waalan and Salem Al-Namlan, who were sentenced for taking part in a protest against government corruption and mismanagement that involved storming the parliament building in 2011, arrived at Kuwait’s international airport late on Monday.
A crowd of supporters and local reporters gathered at the airport to receive the three politicians.
“We thank his Highness the emir for his generous initiative that would come only from a generous leader,” Harbesh told the crowd. Waalan knelt and kissed the ground after leaving the airport, Reuters witnesses said.
Musallam al-Barrak, another pardoned leader of the opposition, is expected to arrive on Nov. 17, Kuwaiti MPs said.
The political deadlock will focus on parliament potentially questioning Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah, a member of the royal family, on several issues including handling the COVID-19 pandemic and corruption until the end of 2022.
Sheikh Nawaf accepted on Sunday the resignation of Sheikh Sabah’s government, in another step by the emir to end the feud with the opposition.
(Writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Bernadette Baum)