DUBAI, April 15 - RAPSI. A Kuwaiti court has sentenced opposition leader Mussallam al-Barrack to five years in prison for insulting the emir during a political rally last year, local media reported on Monday.

According to the authorities, al-Barrack made defamatory statements about Emir Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah during a public speech on Oct. 15.

Al-Barrack, a former lawmaker and the leader of the opposition parliamentary group Popular Action Bloc, is believed to be one of the most active critics of the Kuwaiti leadership. According to media reports, he is also the first politician who received a conviction for critical statements about the countrys leader. Until recently, only a few young activists have been convicted on similar charges.

Al-Barrack's sentence comes amid growing tensions between the government and opposition groups who seek to cancel the parliamentary election results and stage a new vote.

The authorities in Kuwait, a small but oil-rich Gulf country, were confronted last year with large-scale rallies, in which protesters called for democratic changes in the country. The opposition also boycotted the recent parliamentary election.