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Sheikh Athbi denies knowing ‘Abdaly’ suspect

KUWAIT: A member of Kuwait’s ruling family denied in court yesterday allegations linking him to a recently uncovered ‘terror cell’. Sheikh Athbi Al-Fahd Al-Sabah yesterday told the criminal court that the main suspect in the Iran-linked terror cell is unknown to him and that he had never asked him to hide the weapons.

The prime suspect in the 26-member cell had told the court that he was a member of the resistance against the 1990-91 Iraqi invasion and that Sheikh Athbi, who was a resistance leader, had asked him to hide a quantity of arms. Sheikh Athbi, who was the head of the secret service, said that he does not know the man and never gave him any instructions.

During the hearing, defense lawyer Khaled Al-Shatti questioned the validity of the arrest warrants issued to arrest his clients. He also refuted some of the points mentioned in the arresting officer’s report, noting that the officer was only two years old when some of the incidents happened and had not been even born when others took place.

Shatti also demanded dropping the charges because the accusations made took place more than 10 years ago and stressed that his clients kept the weapons in case Saddam Hussein decided to launch another invasion of Kuwait. Shatti also refuted charges of spying on the Kuwaiti government during the invasion, noting that the government was headquartered abroad then. He also wondered how the arresting officer finished writing his report and accusations against all defendants within 48 hours.

Moreover, Shatti argued that Al-Qaeda launched several terrorist attacks against husseiniyas in Kuwait after Saddam was toppled, while none of the defendants had ever shot a single bullet against Kuwaiti citizens or expats. The judge decided to delay the hearing until today to allow defense lawyers to make their final arguments.

The 26 men face charges of collaborating with Iran and Hezbollah to carry out attacks against Kuwait. On Aug 13, the Interior Ministry uncovered a huge arms cache at farmhouses in Abdaly near the border with Iraq. The cache included 19,000 kg of ammunition, 144 kg of explosives, 68 weapons, and 204 grenades were seized from three properties near the Iraqi border, the interior ministry said. Dozens of arrests were made and houses were searched in Adan and other areas.

The trial of the suspected terror cell started Sept 15. The controversial case saw several lawmakers call for a downgrading of diplomatic ties with Iran and the labeling of the Lebanese militia Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in response to the discovery of the arms.

The Iranian embassy in Kuwait broke protocol and issued a statement to the press openly criticizing the Kuwaiti government for its handling of information surrounding the case and expressing dissatisfaction with what it described as “pushing Iran into a Kuwaiti domestic concern”. The embassy also accused local media of dealing with the issue without notifying official Iranian bodies through proper diplomatic channels. In response, the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry said that the Iranian action violated diplomatic norms. “A country’s wish to officially access information concerning certain issues should be done through proper channels,” it had noted in reference to the Iranian embassy’s statement.

By B Izzak and Meshaal Al-Enezi

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