Acquittal of 13 members Court overturned
KUWAIT: The Court of Cassation yesterday commuted the death penalty against the ringleader of a pro-Iran cell to life in prison but overturned the acquittal of half the cell members sentencing them to various jail terms. The members were convicted of forming a cell with links to Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah and plotting attacks in Kuwait.
Hassan Abdulhadi Ali Hajji was sentenced to the death by the criminal and appeals courts last year. He was convicted of several crimes including forming the cell and smuggling explosives from Iran. Judge Ahmad Al-Ajeel also reduced a life term against one of the 26-member cell to 15 years in jail and confirmed a similar sentence on a third member. The court, whose rulings are final, sentenced 15 members to 10 years in prison, three others to five years in jail and acquitted two others.
The cases of the remaining three members were not reviewed by the court because they remain absconding. Under Kuwaiti law, fugitives receiving verdicts in absentia cannot have their appeals reviewed until they appear before court. One of the three fugitives is the only Iranian member of the cell, Abdulredha Haider, who was handed the death penalty in January last year for arranging for the travel of most of the members to go to Lebanon and undergo military training with Shiite militia Hezbollah. Apart from the Iranian, all the remaining 25 members are Kuwaiti Shiites.
The cell was busted in August 2015 when security forces uncovered large quantities of arms and ammunition hidden in underground depots in Abdali and other areas. The arms included 19 tons of ammunition, RBGs, machineguns, hand grenades and about 140 kilograms of high explosives which were smuggled by sea from Iran with the help of the Revolutionary Guards. The ringleader was convicted of meeting officials at the Iranian Embassy in Kuwait and traveling to Iran where he met with officials from the Revolutionary Guards and later smuggled the explosives.
The cell members could receive additional sentences as the Criminal Court is trying some of them for undergoing military training with Hezbollah. Initially, the Criminal Court did not try them for this crime because the training took place outside the country. But the Appeals Court last year ordered the court to try them after ruling that this constitutes an offense. The convicts denied the charges during trial and claimed their confessions were extracted from them through torture.
By B Izzak