Kuwait's opposition defiant despite crackdown threat
Kuwait's emir on Thursday ordered authorities to take all necessary measures to maintain security after angry protesters stormed parliament, but the opposition remained defiant.
Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah issued the order in a statement by the cabinet which held an emergency meeting a day after opposition-led protesters broke into the assembly calling for the premier's ouster over graft allegations.
The emir "ordered the interior ministry and the national guards to take all measures and preparations necessary to confront whatever undermines the security of the country and public order," the statement said.
Forces were ordered to be "provided with all authority necessary to ensure security and the application of the law... to put an end to such shameful provocative acts," it added without specifying what measures would be taken.
The Kuwaiti ruler also condemned the storming of the parliament as "chaos which endangers the security" of the Gulf emirate.
Kuwaiti opposition MPs meanwhile remained defiant and after a meeting warned against "any attempt to establish a police state or undermine the democratic system."
In the meeting, which was attended by 20 representatives from the 50-member parliament, MP's said security forces triggered Wednesday's events by beating up protesters who stormed the assembly only once provoked.
The lawmakers insisted they will continue to support youth activists in future actions against the "corrupt government" and pledged to perform their duties "regardless of the price."
Late on Wednesday, thousands of demonstrators outside parliament clashed with police who beat them with batons, injuring five people, the opposition and witnesses said.
They broke open the parliament's gates and dozens of protesters invaded the main chamber, where they sang the national anthem in a country so far spared the "Arab Spring" pro-reform revolts.
The government said five security personnel and a member of the national guard were also hurt in the clashes.
The cabinet called on the interior minister to take legal action against those who took part in the storming of parliament, including MPs, its statement said.
Kuwait's opposition and youth activists have been holding protests for the past few months to press for the removal of Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, a key member of the ruling family.
Pro-government MPs strongly condemned the opposition, with Shiite MP Faisal al-Duwaisan describing it as a "challenge to the status of the emir.... and a step toward a coup."
Before the cabinet statement, MP Mussallam al-Barrak had told reporters the opposition was waiting for the resignation of the cabinet and the dissolution of parliament, and threatened more protests.
It was the first political violence in the oil-rich Gulf state since December, when elite forces beat up protesters and MPs at a public rally.
Tension has been rising in Kuwait in the past three months after it was alleged some 16 MPs received about $350 million (259 million euros) in bribes, apparently for their parliamentary votes.
The public prosecutor has opened an unprecedented investigation into the case after several local banks referred accounts held by MPs on suspicions of receiving huge illegal deposits.
Some opposition MPs have linked the government to the alleged bribes and accused the 71-year-old premier, nephew of the emir, of transferring public funds into his personal accounts overseas. The charges were denied.
The premier has been a target of opposition criticism since he was appointed to the job in February 2006, forcing him to resign six times, and dissolving parliament and holding fresh elections on three occasions.
Kuwait is OPEC's third largest producer, pumping around 3.0 million barrels of oil per day. It has accumulated over $300 billion in assets but projects have been stalled because of political disputes.