July 21, 2016
Kuwait’s Court of Appeal on Thursday upheld the death sentence of one of the two defendants who were awarded capital punishment by a lower court in the terrorist cell case No. 302/2016. The other, an Iranian, is at large and was sentenced by the lower court in absentia.
While three defendants were acquitted, the other 21 received sentences ranging from five to 15 years in prison.
According to the Kuwait News Agency, KUNA, one of them was fined KD5,000 ($16,500 approximately).
Kuwaiti security service officers raided farmhouses near the Iraqi border late last summer, slicing through carpets and smashing open concrete floors. Hidden in large plastic containers was a weapons cache, the largest discovered in Kuwait’s history. State television showed Kuwait’s Interior Minister, a senior ruling family member, solemnly viewing the seized weapons.
Kuwait charged 25 of its nationals and an Iranian with spying for Iran and Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah.
The case opened up sectarian divisions in Kuwait. While Kuwait’s Sunni majority and Shiite minority get on better with each other than in neighbouring states, tensions still exist.
In January this year, a Kuwaiti court found 23 of the 26 guilty of various charges. Two were sentenced to death, including the Iranian who is at large. The others were fined or received jail terms between five years and life.
The prosecution is appealing the sentences, saying some of the men should have received tougher punishments.
On September 1 last year, Kuwait’s public prosecution said 26 defendants, including the Iranian, would stand trial for the possession of weapons, ammunition and explosives and espionage for Iran and Hezbollah.
It said that 24 defendants faced charges of engaging in acts likely to undermine the unity and safety of Kuwait and sharing of intelligence with Iran and Lebanese group Hezbollah.
However, the Iranian embassy on September 3 downplayed the significance of the terrorist cell and the charges of espionage, saying that the case was a domestic Kuwaiti issue pertaining mainly to the discovery of weapons and ammunition.
The embassy said it regretted the move to implicate Iran in the case and called upon the Kuwaiti authorities to communicate the identity and “alleged role” of the Iranian suspect.
The embassy blasted Kuwaiti media for its “negative incitement against the Kuwaiti-Iranian relations” and for “targeting Iran based on flimsy charges, so far unproven by the judicial authorities”.
In September, Kuwait summoned Iran’s ambassador to the country and handed him a reply to a statement issued earlier by the Iranian embassy on the busting of the terror cell.
The reply was handed over by Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Sulaiman Al Jarallah to Ambassador Ali Reza Enayati, the foreign ministry said.
“The reply included clarifications about Kuwait’s stance on the issue,” the ministry said in a brief statement carried by KUNA on Monday.
The ministry had earlier rejected the Iranian embassy’s statement following the referral of suspects to a court over their espionage links with Iran and Hezbollah, saying that it was not consistent with basic diplomatic norms.
A spokesperson said the foreign ministry regretted and rejected the embassy statement for ignoring basic diplomatic norms that require resorting to official communication channels between governments when seeking information regarding a specific issue, and not going to the public media instead.
Source: Gulf News