Kuwait, Asharq Al-Awsat- A Kuwaiti court sentences to death six militants, members of the “Peninsula Lions” group, affiliated with al Qaeda on Tuesday.
The six were amongst 37 Islamists on trial. They include 25 Kuwaitis, seven stateless Arabs, two Jordanians, a Saudi, an Australian and a Somali.
Prosecutors had demanded the death penalty for some 20 suspects for their role in four shootouts in January in which eight Islamists and four security personnel were killed. The unprecedented incidents shook the normally tranquil emirate.
Other suspects received jail terms between four months to 15 years and one received a life term.
Seven were acquitted, including Islamic cleric Sheikh Hamed al Ali, former leader of the Salafi group in Kuwait, and lawyer Osama al Munawer who represents Islamists. Talal Qadri, an Australian citizen received 4 years in jail.
None of the defendants were present when the verdicts were read out on Tuesday.
“I thank God. I’ve believed in my innocence all along,” al Munawer said after the charges against him were dropped.
Judge Hani Hamdan read out the guilty verdict against “three Kuwaitis and three stateless” suspects who were each sentenced to death. They are, Mohammad Saad bin Aoun, 21, Ahmad Musameh al Materi, 20, Abdullah Said al Shamri, 22, all Kuwaiti nationals, as well as Ahmad al Anzi, 20, Mohammad al Shamri, 21, and Saleh Khalaf, 24, who are stateless.
Mohammad al Ajani, 32, a Kuwaiti national, was sentenced to life imprisonment. The suspects were charged with belonging to a group affiliated to al Qaeda and participating in four shootouts with the security forces in January in which eight Islamists and four policemen were killed. Ten policemen were also injured in the confrontations, unprecedented in Kuwait.
The alleged leader of the group, Amer Khaleef al Anzi, a former imam, died while in custody on 8 February 2005, after being arrested following clashes between Peninsula Lions members and the police. His younger brother Nasser was killed in gun battles with the Kuwaiti security forces the previous day.
Nuha al Unzi, the wife of Amer al Anazi, who is ill with cancer, was freed after paying $1,700 bail money.
The prosecution had demanded the death penalty against 34 suspects. Ten militants were tired in absentia. Public prosecutor Saud al Saneh had accused the men of belonging to a terrorist organization “The Peninsula Lions”, affiliated to al Qaeda, and planning “terrorist attacks in Kuwait with the help of suicide combers who came from outside”.
The Peninsula Lions planned to “overthrow the regime and attack foreign troops stationed in Kuwait. It smuggled arms into Iraq and made a large quantity of explosives”, he added.
Islamist groups in Kuwait had strongly denounced the group and accused it of endangering national security.
Muhsin al Fadhli and Khaled al Dossari, both Kuwaitis, were sentenced in absentia for 10 years and Mohammad al Harbi received a 7-year sentence. The Saudi Salman Hamd al Shamri was found guilty in absentia and sentenced to 15 years.
The defense had argued that the suspects were planning to go to Iraq and asked for leniency from the court. Lawyers claimed the suspects were tortured and had confessed under duress. The prosecution denies this.