Kuwait detains political activist over tweets against Saudi Arabia

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwait arrested an opposition activist on suspicion of insulting Saudi Arabia on his Twitter account, the state news agency KUNA reported, extending a crackdown on social media.

Tariq al-Mutairi, head of the liberal Civil Democratic Movement (CDM), was detained on his way home early on Wednesday by men in plainclothes believed to be from the state security service, the alaan.cc news website said, quoting another activist who was in the same car.

KUNA, quoting an Interior Ministry statement, said Mutairi was arrested for "publishing a number of tweets insulting the sister Kingdom of Saudi Arabia". The content of the posts was not clear. Kuwaiti law bans insults of friendly states.

CDM condemned the overnight arrest as a "kidnapping" that aimed to intimidate the group. "What the security elements have done by kidnapping the head of the movement in such a way is clearly intended to send a message of terror in the hearts of the young men and women of the movement," a CDM statement said.

Last week, Hakem al-Mutairi, a member of the same extended tribe who heads the Islamist political group al-Umma, was detained on charges of insulting Saudi Arabia in a television interview last year. Hakem was freed two days later on bail.

Kuwait bans political parties although political societies of various shades are tolerated in the country of 4 million.

The Western-allied Gulf oil exporter allows more political expression than other Gulf Arab states, with a lively press and an elected parliament, but bans public gatherings of more than 20 people without a permit.

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(Reporting by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Noah Browning)