5 Former Guantanamo Prisoners Acquitted of Terror Charges
May 22, 2006
Kuwait City: A criminal court yesterday acquitted five Kuwaitis freed from US custody in Guantanamo, clearing them of charges that they collected money for Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaida network.
The five were freed from the US prison at GuantanamoBay in November but were arrested upon their return home to Kuwait on suspicion they belonged to Al Qaida.
But yesterday, a court found all five, Abdullah Saleh Al Ajmi, Abdul Aziz Al Shimmiri, Adel Zamel Abdul Mohsen, Sa'ad Madhi Al Azmi and Mohammad Fnaitil Al Dehani, innocent of all charges, according to a ruling posted by a clerk.
It was not clear if the prosecution will appeal. A detailed ruling with court explanations was to be made public within 10 days.
The defendants pleaded innocent when the trial opened in March. Their lawyers argued that there was no evidence to convict them and that Kuwaiti courts had no jurisdiction to try them because they had not done anything illegal in Kuwait.
Defence attorneys also told the tribunal that testimonies collected at GuantanamoBay and provided by the United States could not be used in a Kuwaiti court because they did not have the signatures of the detainees or interrogators.
The defendants were also accused of fighting alongside Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime that hosted the terror group.
The prosecution alleged that the men endangered their country's "political standing" and its ties with friendly countries.
After the September 2001 terror attacks in the United States, Washington gave its support to Northern Alliance Forces in Afghanistan, which overthrew the Taliban regime.
A former Kuwaiti Guantanamo prisoner who returned in January 2005 was initially acquitted of terror-related charges, but an appeals tribunal overturned the acquittal and sentenced him to five years in prison.
Six Kuwaitis still held at US detention centre
Khalid Al Odah, who heads a private group that campaigns for the release of Kuwaiti prisoners in Guantanamo, told Associated Press that he was "proud of Kuwaiti justice".
He lamented that "our sons have lost four years of their lives for no good reason". He called on the American government to release the rest of the Kuwaiti detainees, including his son Fawzi. Kuwait has been a major US ally since the Washington-led 1991 Gulf War that liberated it from Iraqi occupation.