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Top court looks into Assembly storming case after recusal

KUWAIT: The court of cassation will today start looking into the case of 70 opposition activists including sitting MPs accused of storming the National Assembly, after it delayed the start of procedures as the head of the judges’ panel recused himself. The court was supposed to start hearing the case yesterday, but Judge Ahmad Al-Ajeel stepped down from presiding over the panel because one of the defense lawyers is his relative. The panel then appointed a new judge to preside over the proceedings and decided to begin deliberations from today. The court may decide to free all the jailed defendants pending the result of the trial.

The activists are charged with storming the Assembly in Nov 2011. The criminal court had acquitted all of them, saying they had no criminal intent when they entered the house. But the appeals court handed 67 of them harsh jail terms – from one to nine years – including current and former MPs. They include MPs Jamaan Al-Harbash and Waleed Al-Tabtabaei, who have been held at the central prison for the past two months. Others include leading opposition figure and former MP Musallam Al-Barrak and well-known opposition figures.

The public prosecution in its arguments to the cassation court acknowledged that the appeals court ruling was not correct because it did not give the defendants the chance to present their defense. Defense lawyers are expected to request the court to free their clients pending the outcome of the trial. The court’s rulings are final.

In a related development, National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem returned to Kuwait yesterday after talks with senior officials of the International Parliamentarians Union over complaints against the Assembly regarding the jailing of the two lawmakers. Ghanem said the Assembly will send an explanation to the IPU regarding the case and insisted that he will do everything to defend Kuwait’s image. MP Shuaib Al-Muwaizri explained over the weekend that the complaint he submitted to the IPU was against Ghanem himself and not against Kuwait or the National Assembly.

Meanwhile, opposition MP Riyadh Al-Adasani said yesterday that the Assembly’s budgets committee recommended to refer the so-called interior ministry hospitality spending case to the public prosecution. The committee, which probed the issue, found that hospitality spending soared sharply from a few millions a year to well over KD 20 million last year.
The Salafist Alliance yesterday criticized the government’s bid to secure the approval of the Assembly for a new debt law allowing it to borrow up to KD 25 billion to meet the budget deficit. The alliance said such borrowing was in breach of Islamic sharia laws because it involves interest, and urged the Assembly to reject the law.

By B Izzak

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