ThinkProgress’s Beenish Ahmed has the story of two American citizens who have been most likely railroaded by the Kuwaiti justice system (such as it is) because they happen to be a lesbian couple:

A U.S. army veteran and her partner have been sentenced to more than 20 years in a Kuwaiti prison for trumped up charges of drug possession, according to her family.

“I believe it really had nothing to do with drugs because they had nothing illegal,” Michelle Jackson said of the sentences handed down to her daughter Monique Coverson and her partner Larissa Joseph.

Instead, she believes that the steep punishment was a result of her daughter’s sexuality.

“I do believe it’s mostly their alternative lifestyle in a religious country that is so against same-sex relationships,” she told ThinkProgress in an interview.

As Ahmed reports, Jasmine Coverson’s petition calling for Monique Coverson and Larissa Joseph’s release says that their house was raided by Kuwaiti police last may and “one ounce of a ‘tobacco-like’ substance” was confiscated. It was sent to a German lab for testing and was, according to Jackson, “determined to be a substance that is completely legal in Kuwait.” By last month that substance had somehow been reclassified as marijuana a “pound of hash,” and Coverson and Joseph got their prison sentence for drug possession. Despite its strange use of the euphemism “tobacco-like,” which bugged me when I first read the petition, the petition appears to be correct; Detroit-area media is reporting that the substance was the synthetic cannabis K2, which is, apparently, legal in Kuwait.

Monique Coverson and Larissa Joseph, from the petition calling for their release
It’s an assumption to say that Coverson and Joseph were given their prison sentences for their sexual orientation, but not a particularly outrageous one. Ahmed again:

At least for men, same-sex relationships are illegal in Kuwait. Consensual sex between two men carries a sentence of up to seven years in prison, although the law makes no mention of same-sex relations between women.

The country carried out a crackdown against LGBT Kuwaitis and foreign nationals in the past, including a sweep that resulted in more than 200 arrests in 2013. Kuwait’s health ministry claimed to be developing a “gay detector test” meant to keep LGBT people out of the country, and MPs rallied against Amnesty International for protecting LGBT people who one former MP said harbored “deviant behavior and attitudes undermine and destroy humanity.”

So you’ve got a country that persecutes the LGBT community but, probably owing to its culturally ingrained sexism, never bothered to criminalize lesbianism as it did male homosexuality. So they manufactured a drug possession charge as a pretext for tossing the American lesbians in prison.

It would be nice if the Obama administration raised hell over this story with the Kuwaitis, but Kuwait is an American ally, believe it or not, so if there is an official response it will likely be very muted. If Coverson and Joseph were in Iran, or North Korea, and the same thing happened to them, you can bet there would be some serious noise from the administration, but in this case, who knows? You likely won’t hear a peep about this out of anybody running for president. Nobody wants to talk about human rights or the rule of law when it means criticizing one of our pals.

UPDATE: There’s a commenter below who disputes the WDIV story that K2 is legal in Kuwait. While in a tie between an internet commenter and a news report I think the news report wins, it’s certainly possible that WDIV’s reporting is wrong. The idea thst K2 is legal in Kuwait seems strange to me, I’ll admit. It’s also possible that Coverson and Joseph aren’t telling the whole story. But inconsistencies remain, in particular about how “an ounce” of K2 in one report became “a pound of hash” in another–again, assuming that part of their story is accurate. I still say that if this exact case had happened in Iran you’d be hearing a lot more about it right now.

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  1. First of all k2 isn’t legal here , and I’ve know a lot of americans get away with a lot of illegal things here only cause they were american and the kuwaitis are grateful for the help during gulf war . But drugs have been brought into the country by westerners and recently a lot of soldiers have been caught with huge quantities . Kuwait’s society especially kids have been given these drugs and have severally affected them. So the new interior minister decided to crack down on them to get rid of this menace from society . The lgbt angle is just a way for the family to get them free but I can assure you its not so . I know a lot of lgbt’s and they are always let off and kuwaiti police doesn’t target westerners as much as asians . But there is zero tolerance towards people who sell and have drugs .

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