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Poem Praising Saddam Brings Life Sentence

June 20, 1991

KUWAIT CITY (AP) _ Seven actors, poets and songwriters, including a 74-year-old convicted of writing a poem praising Saddam Hussein, were sentenced Wednesday to life in prison for helping the seven-month Iraqi occupation.

The martial-law court also sentenced four other artists to prison terms ranging up to 15 years on charges of aiding Iraq and helping its propaganda efforts. One was given a suspended sentence and one was acquitted.

The sentences came a day after U.N. officials said Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar hoped Kuwait would show clemency toward six journalists sentenced to death for collaboration.

The collaboration trials have drawn condemnation from Kuwaiti lawyers and international human rights groups for the lack of evidence presented in court, and other problems.

The groups also say Kuwait is expecting foreigners - who make up most of the defendants - to have held to an excessive standard of loyalty, considering that most had few rights under Kuwaiti law.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch criticized the trials Wednesday in a letter to Kuwait’s emir. The group said that while it respected Kuwait’s aim of bringing collaborators to justice, ″the desire for revenge cannot be permitted to justify compromises with the right to a fair trial.″

The criticism has had little impact on Kuwaitis, many of whom see the trials as legitimate revenge.

″Kuwaitis are demanding harsher judgements due to what they’ve seen under occupation,″ of Kuwait by Iraq, said Jasim Muttawa, editor of Al-Watan newspaper.

There were no outbursts in the courtroom when Judge Jawad Abdulla read the sentences. He had sternly warned the crowd beforehand that anyone who made noise would be ejected.

Among those given a life sentence was Zanouba Abdul Kuder Ashoor, a 42- year-old Iraqi actress who sang at a party for the unveiling of a mural for Saddam.

She also was accused of taking part in organizing two other celebrations and of joining the Union for Iraqi Artists. Mrs. Ashoor said she would have been killed if she had not joined the artists’ union.

She said she was arrested by Kuwaitis after liberation, convicted in a summary trial and shot twice, she said. But she managed to walk to a mosque, and was taken to a police station and then to a hospital, she said.

The 74-year-old poet Khalaf Alwan al-Maliki, a 43-year resident of Kuwait, was sentenced for his short poem praising Saddam. Kassem Saleh Basheer, an Iraqi living in Kuwait since 1955, was sentenced for setting the poem to music.

Other life terms went to a Jordanian sentenced in absentia and three Iraqis.

Saleh Ahmed, a comedian known as Imbairik who has lived in Kuwait since 1954, looked stunned when he was sentenced to 15 years.

He said he had hidden members of the ruling family during the occupation but that they would not testify in front of the press. One, however, provided a letter to the judge recognizing his services.

One other defendant received a sentence of 10 years, two received five years and another was given a suspended sentence.

Twenty-one defendants have been sentenced to death in the month-old trials, including three Jordanians, two Palestinians, two Lebanese, a Kuwaiti woman, 10 stateless Arabs and three whose nationality has not known.

There is no appeal under martial law, but the martial-law governor, Crown Prince Saad Abdullah al-Sabah, must approve all sentences in consultation with three judges from the Court of Appeals.

Update hourly