MPs de­mand an­swers af­ter ‘Ab­daly cell’ fugi­tives flee

Hashem pro­poses 10-yr cap for ex­pats, ban on de­pen­dent visas

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE - By B Iz­zak

Is­lamist op­po­si­tion MP Waleed Al-Tabtabaei yes­ter­day ques­tioned In­te­rior Min­is­ter Sheikh Khaled Al-Jar­rah Al-Sabah over re­ports that 14 Kuwaitis con­victed of form­ing a cell with ties to Tehran fled by sea to Iran to es­cape im­pris­on­ment. Cit­ing high-rank­ing se­cu­rity sources, a lo­cal daily re­ported yes­ter­day said the 14 men fled to Iran on speed­boats hours af­ter the cas­sa­tion court over­turned their ac­quit­tals by the ap­peals court and sen­tenced them to lengthy jail terms for plot­ting at­tacks in the state.

The men were ini­tially con­victed by the crim­i­nal court early last year and sen­tenced to var­i­ous terms in jail. But sev­eral months later, the ap­peals court ac­quit­ted them and set them free. On June 18, when the court of cas­sa­tion is­sued the fi­nal ver­dict in the case, the 14 men fled the coun­try to Iran af­ter they learned they had been sen­tenced to sev­eral years in jail. The men are part of 25 Kuwaitis and one Ira­nian charged with form­ing the so-called ‘Ab­daly cell’ with links to Iran and the Le­banese Hezbol­lah group and plot­ting at­tacks in Kuwait. One man was sen­tenced to life, 20 oth­ers were jailed be­tween two and 15 years and two ac­quit­ted. The re­main­ing three are still at large. The in­te­rior min­istry has not com­mented on the re­port.

Tabtabaei asked the in­te­rior min­is­ter if the re­port was true and how the con­victs man­aged to es­cape the in­te­rior min­istry’s se­cu­rity sys­tem. He de­manded a list of names of of­fi­cials re­spon­si­ble for the boats that car­ried them to Iran and the names of peo­ple re­spon­si­ble on that day.

The law­maker also asked if Kuwaiti au­thor­i­ties have de­manded that Iran ex­tra­dite the 14 men to Kuwait to serve their jail terms. Tabtabaei also asked the min­is­ter about what pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures the min­istry has taken to avoid the re­oc­cur­rence of what he de­scribed as the most se­ri­ous breach of Kuwait’s se­cu­rity.

In a re­lated de­vel­op­ment, Is­lamist MP Mo­ham­mad Hayef said yes­ter­day that one of those con­victed in the pro-Iran cell was work­ing as the di­rec­tor of a pri­vate tele­vi­sion sta­tion. In ques­tions to the act­ing in­for­ma­tion min­is­ter, the law­maker de­manded a copy of the li­cense of the chan­nel and names of its board of direc­tors. He asked about the mea­sures taken by the min­istry against the chan­nel af­ter its di­rec­tor had been con­victed in a fi­nal court ver­dict and de­manded to know the rea­sons if no ac­tions had been taken un­til now.

Separately, MP Safa Al-Hashem con­tin­ued her anti­ex­pa­tri­ate pro­pos­als by de­mand­ing a 10-year cap on the stay of for­eign­ers in the coun­try and a ban on de­pen­dent visas, ex­cept for par­ents. The law­maker, who has al­ready pro­posed tax­ing ex­pa­tri­ates and im­pos­ing a five-per­cent fee on their money trans­fers, also called yes­ter­day for dou­bling the charges for the re­cruit­ment of ex­pa­tri­ates - to be paid by spon­sors.

Hashem said that the coun­try’s de­mo­graphic struc­ture is very im­bal­anced in fa­vor of ex­pa­tri­ates, whose num­bers are three times that of Kuwaitis, and called for strict mea­sures to deal with this im­bal­ance. Hashem said she submitted her pro­pos­als be­cause many laws and de­ci­sions re­gard­ing for­eign work­ers are not be­ing im­ple­mented, which has en­abled ex­pa­tri­ates to work in more than one job, thus de­priv­ing Kuwaitis of such jobs.

She pro­posed that con­trac­tors of govern­ment projects must be forced to repa­tri­ate their ex­pat work­ers back to their home coun­tries af­ter com­plet­ing the projects. She also called for ac­ti­vat­ing the rules and con­di­tions reg­u­lat­ing the process of es­ti­mat­ing the needs of busi­nesses of man­power from abroad to con­trol the re­cruit­ment process.

Hashem pro­posed a to­tal ban on de­pen­dent visas ex­cept for par­ents, and if any ex­cep­tions are pro­vided, the spon­sors must bear all their med­i­cal ex­penses. She also called for dou­bling the re­cruit­ment fees to be paid by the spon­sors, but she ex­empted re­cruit­ment of maids from the in­crease. Hashem also pro­posed that the stay of ex­pa­tri­ates in Kuwait should be lim­ited to 10 years with the pos­si­bil­ity of ex­tend­ing it only once for highly skilled em­ploy­ees. Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est of­fi­cial fig­ures, there are 3.1 mil­lion ex­pa­tri­ates in Kuwait at present against just 1.35 mil­lion Kuwaiti cit­i­zens.

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