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Kuwaiti opposition leader freed from prison

© AFP | Mussallam al-Barrak at his release from jail on April 21, 2017 in Kuwait City, after serving two years in prison for insulting the emir

KUWAIT CITY (AFP) - 

Prominent Kuwaiti opposition leader Mussallam al-Barrak was released from prison Friday after serving a two-year sentence for insulting the emir in public.

Barrak, 61, walked out of Kuwait's central prison to a frenzied reception by hundreds of his relatives and supporters who broke through tight fences and surrounded his vehicle.

The former lawmaker, who served six consecutive terms from 1999 to 2012, openly critiqued the government upon regaining freedom.

"One day I said and I repeat: History will jail those who sent me to jail," Barrak shouted to the cheering crowd.

In February 2015, Barrak was sentenced to two years in prison for comments he had made at a public rally in 2012 which undermined the status of Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.

Barrak had been protesting changes to the kingdom's electoral law which he argued would allow authorities to manipulate election results. He has denied that his speech amounted to undermining the ruler of the oil-rich Gulf state.

He is the most senior, and the most popular, opposition leader to be jailed in an unprecedented government crackdown on dissent in the kingdom.

Dozens of opposition activists in Kuwait are either in jail or are facing trial for insulting the emir, including via social media.

© 2017 AFP