Kuwait sends man to jail for wearing Hussein shirt

May 20, 1991|By Los Angeles Times

KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait -- A Kuwaiti military tribunal convicted six people yesterday of collaborating with the Iraqi occupation and gave a 15-year jail sentence to one Iraqi whose only known offense was wearing a T-shirt that indicated support for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

The five-judge panel took less than five hours to convict the six, acquit four others and hear preliminary evidence about 12 more accused collaborators.

The trials that began yesterday were the first for more than 600 people detained as suspected collaborators after Kuwait's liberation from Iraqi control in February. The proceedings were monitored by U.S. and British diplomats and the Red Cross amid charges that foreigners, especially Palestinians, have become the scapegoats of embittered Kuwaitis.

No witnesses were called to testify for either the prosecution or the defense. Some of the accused said they had been beaten into making false confessions.

The four defense attorneys said they were laying eyes on some of the 22 defendants for the first time, had not reviewed the charges against them and had no opportunity to present exonerating evidence or to cross-examine police informers.

"In my 10 years as a lawyer, I have never had to deal with or defend ghosts! They say they have witnesses," roared defense attorney Najeeb Wegayan. "Then let's call them and cross-examine them."

Adnan Abdul Hassan, an Iraqi national, was charged with collaboration and wearing a T-shirt bearing Mr. Hussein's picture on the day that allied troops rolled in to liberate Kuwait.

Mr. Hassan told the court he got the T-shirt before the Aug. 2 invasion by Iraq and wore it only as a nightshirt until the evening he was arrested. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison and deportation.

"I don't know what [else] is inside his file," said Mr. Wegayan, who was appointed on the spot to defend him. "If it's just for wearing a T-shirt, it's too much."

Charges at the trials included collaboration, possession of weapons or ammunition, giving money, food or shelter to the Iraqis, looting, car theft and working for pro-Iraqi "foreign organizations."

In all, five Iraqis and one Jordanian were convicted and given sentences of 3 1/2 to 15 years. Two were convicted in absentia. Other convicted collaborators could face the death penalty, with execution by hanging, defense lawyers said.

One of the Iraqis, Sabah Hassim Shamkhi, said he had paid an Iraqi 8,000 dinars, or more than $24,000, to get his brother out of jail and confessed to collaboration only because he was beaten. He was sentenced to 13 years.

An Egyptian, Azzouz Mohammed Azzouz, was charged with collaboration after he agreed to let three Iraqi shoe merchants stay at his home when they said they could not find a hotel. Mr. Azzouz argued that he had frequently quarreled with the Syrian who informed on him, and he was acquitted.

The Ministry of Justice said defendants could appeal their convictions, first to a panel of judges who report to the crown prince and then to the ruling emir for a pardon.

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