Kuwait’s lower court on Sunday acquitted 17 stateless men charged with taking part in illegal protests and assaulting policemen, one of their lawyers said. The court found no evidence to prove any of the accusations made against the men by the public prosecution, which also charged them with illegal assembly with intent to commit crimes, Khaled Al-Kafifa said in a statement. The men were the second group of stateless protesters to be acquitted after a similar court in February cleared 31 others.

Around 150 stateless men, locally known as “bidoons,” currently face trial after being arrested for taking part in demonstrations over the past 14 months to demand citizenship and other basic rights. Kuwait launched a crackdown on its estimated 105,000 bidoons in 2000, depriving them of health care, education and jobs in an effort to force them to reveal their actual nationality.

The stateless men claim they are Kuwaiti citizens who have been denied nationality. The Kuwaiti government, meanwhile, insists that a large number of them hold nationalities of other countries. Kuwait, which has been criticised by international rights groups for the mistreatment of bidoons, has acknowledged that some 34,000 of them deserve to be granted citizenship, while most others do not.

AFP