MPs demand answers after ‘Abdaly cell’ fugitives flee
Hashem proposes 10-yr cap for expats, ban on dependent visas
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.