Iraq Cracks Down on Fleeing Foreigners, Threatens Life in Prison With AM-Gulf Rdp, Bjt
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) _ As hundreds of foreigners trapped in Iraq and Kuwait struggled to get out, Iraq on Thursday imposed a law mandating possible life imprisonment for those caught trying to leave without permission.
A plane with 136 Canadians, 12 Americans and 10 Irish who had been in Kuwait and Iraq arrived in London late Thursday on a Nationair flight chartered by Canada’s government, airport authorities reported. All but 24 of the passengers were flying on to Toronto after a brief refueling stop, they said.
A British Airways charter with 250 women and children on board departed early Friday from Amman for London. They arrived Thursday in Jordan on two Iraqi Airways jets, one carrying 150 passengers and the second 100, said British Ambassador to Jordan, Anthony Reed.
Iraq’s justice minister, Akram Abdul-Kader, ordered public prosecutors and police to revive a 1987 law that ″a foreigner violating the entry and exit procedures ... will be sentenced to life or temporary imprisonment, and all cash in his possession will be confiscated.″
In an interview with the official Iraqi News Agency, monitored in Nicosia, he said: ″Courts and prosecutors are called upon to make no exception in implementing this law in light of the present circumstances.″
The minister added that foreigners must report any change in address within 48 hours or face prison terms of one to three years, plus fines of $300 to $1,500.
Hundreds of Westerners in Iraqi-occupied Kuwait are in hiding to avoid being captured by Iraqi troops. Some foreigners keep constantly on the move, often avoiding Iraqi soldiers with the help of Kuwaiti friends.
Abdul-Kader repeated an order given Aug. 24 that anyone caught harboring a foreigner would face charges of espionage, punishable by death.
Earlier, a British convoy carrying 182 women and children arrived in the Iraqi capital from Kuwait. The Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein, has said women and children may leave but men must stay.
The latest arrivals were put in a hotel, where presumably they will await official permission to leave the country. Some men were believed to be among the group.
The convoy left Kuwait on Thursday at 9:15 a.m. for the 14-hour drive across the desert to Baghdad, British diplomats in Iraq said.
The diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said about 60 women and children were in the group, including 50 Britons, nine Americans and one West German. U.S. Embassy officials were trying to arrange travel for the group to the Jordanian capital of Amman aboard an Iraqi Airways flight.
Another 306 foreigners arrived in Baghdad on Tuesday in a convoy from Kuwait.
Four Irish women and children made it to Amman on Thursday on an Iraqi Airways flight from Baghdad.
An Air France jet landed in Paris about dawn Thursday carrying 153 Westerners, including three pregnant women, who had traveled from Baghdad overnight. There were at least nine Americans on board.
A Western source in Baghdad said the United States was trying to persuade Iraq to allow an Iraqi Airways jet to airlift some Americans directly out of Kuwait without the overland trip to Baghdad. An estimated 1,300 Americans remain in Kuwait, which has been occupied by Iraqi soldiers since Aug. 2.
There are believed to be a total of 11,000 Westerners trapped in Iraq and Kuwait.
Joanna Restall of Brighton, England, is one of the Westerners who have managed to get out of the region in relatively small batches the past week. She arrived in London early Thursday from Baghdad. Ms. Restall was part of a convoy Saturday that made a hair-raising drive across the desert from Kuwait City.
Ms. Restall, 29, who had been teaching English in Kuwait, said the people left behind in Kuwait are frightened, particularly the men.
″They can’t go out, the shops are closed, there are lots of wrecked cars everywhere - it’s like a ghost town,″ she said.
The Iraqis have moved some Westerners to strategic facilities, such as military bases, to deter possible attacks by Western forces.