May 18, 2011 / 4:22 PM / in 8 years

Guantanamo jab sparks fistfight among Kuwait MPs

KUWAIT (Reuters) - A fistfight erupted in Kuwait’s parliament on Wednesday when Sunni Islamist lawmakers exchanged blows with a Shi’ite parliamentarian who labelled Kuwaitis detained in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as terrorists, lawmakers said.

Detainees in orange jumpsuits sit in a holding area at Camp X-Ray of Naval Base Guantanamo Bay in this January 11, 2002 file photograph. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

Shi’ite pro-government lawmaker Hussein al-Qallaf made the remarks during a discussion about the fate of Kuwaitis held at the U.S. military facility, enraging Salafist opposition lawmakers who adhere to a strict interpretation of Islam.

The Salafist lawmakers attacked him, sparking a brawl when other parliamentarians rushed to defend Qallaf, lawmakers said.

The fight appeared to play out along sectarian lines in a parliament that has seen some tensions emerge between Sunni and Shi’ite lawmakers after Kuwait sent naval forces to Bahrain following Shi’ite-led protests in the Gulf Arab neighbour.

“A Kuwaiti from any sect can make mistakes, but the government and the country should provide him with a fair trial,” Salafist lawmaker Waleed al-Tabtabae told reporters.

“This is a national issue, but unfortunately Qallaf wanted to break national unity and started calling them (Guantanamo detainees) terrorists and members of al Qaeda,” he said.

Fellow Shi’ite lawmaker Adnan al-Mutawa defended Qallaf.

“Parliament members are free to express their views in parliament, and they should be respected,” he said. “Whoever violates others for their points of views is far away from freedom and democracy.”

Al Arabiya television said seven lawmakers were involved in the fight. The session was then adjourned to May 31.

“The parliament has never witnessed such an incident since it was established... This is an improper act and does not represent the parliament, nor the good relationship between us,” parliament speaker Jassim al-Kharafi said, according to state news agency KUNA.

Kuwait’s foreign minister said last year that the United States and Kuwait were working out differences over returning two Kuwaiti detainees being held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Shi’ites make up about a third of the 1.15 million Kuwaitis.

Reporting by Eman Goma; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Michel Rose

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