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First Kuwaiti Death Sentence Greeted With Indifference

June 9, 1991

KUWAIT CITY (AP) _ The first death sentence imposed on a defendant accused of collaborating with Iraq was greeted with indifference Sunday by many Kuwaitis, most too busy restocking their houses to follow the trials.

The acting prosecutor general also said that more such sentences would follow because he had asked for the death penalty for virtually all of the 300 alleged collaborators currently facing a martial law court.

Human rights groups have strongly criticized the 3-week-old trials, saying the decisions of the five-judge panel seem entirely based on pretrial investigations, rather then the examination of witnesses by prosecution and defense in open court.

The death sentence imposed on Saturday involved a stateless man who never had a chance to speak to his court-appointed lawyer.

″A death sentence? There wasn’t one,″ said Masad Ahmed, a 45-year-old government employee picking over new tires and batteries in an outdoor car market. ″There was? Well, if people were really collaborating and hurting Kuwait, they should hang.″

″Things are such a mess here and people are just trying to cope. They know that the foreign media and other organizations are watching so they figure everything is OK,″ said another Kuwaiti, Rashid Al-Ajeez.

The news was reported across the bottom of the front page of the Al-Fajr Al-Jadid newspaper. It was also reported without commentary on local television and radio news programs.

Mankhi al-Shimmiri, a 33-year-old radar technician in the Kuwaiti air force, was accused of joining Iraq’s Popular Army and providing information to the Iraqis during their seven-month occupation.

Al-Shimmiri confessed to volunteering for the army, wearing the Iraqi uniform, and other offenses. No witnesses were heard during his trial, nor was the evidence against him presented out loud.

″I know it’s a harsh judgement, but legally it’s right,″ said Nabeel al- Wuguyan, a lawyer for other defendants.

There is no appeal under martial law, which was first imposed at the Feb. 26 liberation for three months, then extended a month. But Crown Prince Saad al-Abdullah al-Sabah, the martial law governor, must approve all sentences.

″I hope Sheik Saad, by his mercy, will save his life,″ said al-Shimmiri’s defense lawyer, Abdul Latif al-Seif. He said he had been too busy with other cases and reorganizing his ransacked office to meet al-Shimmiri.

The acting prosecutor-general, Hamid al-Othman, meanwhile, said all the more than 200 defendants who have appeared in court so far have faced the death penalty, the maximum for collaboration.

″We’ve asked for the death penalty in each case. In this case it was taken. It’s not an unusual sentence,″ he said.

Most of the 200 cases, however, have been postponed to give defense lawyers a chance to read the prosecutor’s files.

Defense lawyers said Al-shimmiri’s sentence would make their jobs that much harder, especially in cases like his where defendants don’t deny their confession.

Yet the confessions have raised questions, since many of the defendants who have appeared in court since the trials started May 19 said they were beaten or tortured during investigations by security forces after the allies liberated Kuwait on Feb. 26.

On Saturday, a prominent defense attorney, Doukhi al-Hasban, said that a number of Kuwaiti security officers will go on trial soon for torturing defendants accused of collaboration with the Iraqis.

As many as eight are expected to be investigated.

Update hourly