KUWAIT: The appeals court yesterday upheld the death sentence against the man who drove a Saudi bomber to a Shiite mosque, but reduced the capital penalty against the alleged leader of the Islamic State group in Kuwait. The court did not look into the cases of five other men who were sentenced to death by the criminal court in September for their roles in the June suicide bombing at the Imam Al-Sadeq Mosque that left 26 people dead and 227 others wounded.

The court also acquitted one of the five women who received jail terms by the criminal court and left the other sentences almost unchanged. The court convicted the main defendant Abdulrahman Sabah Eidan Saud who dropped the Saudi bomber to the mosque site and who also brought the explosives belt from near the Saudi border. Saud, a stateless Arab, had confessed to the charges in the criminal court but denied them in the appeals court. He did not make any move after he heard from his cage the judge read out the verdict.

The court reduced the death sentence against Farraj Muhareb, the alleged leader of the Islamic State in Kuwait, to 15 years in jail. The court also acquitted a woman who was handed a two-year term by the criminal court. Based on the appeals verdict, one suspect is sentenced to death, eight received jail terms from two to 15 years and 15 people were acquitted. The remaining five who were handed the death penalty in absentia had their cases stopped by the court until they appear. Under Kuwaiti law, sentences issued in absentia cannot be appealed until the people concerned appear.

The sentences are still not final as they must be reviewed by the court of cassation, whose rulings are final. The bombing, the worst terror attack in Kuwait's history, was carried out by a Saudi citizen and claimed by the Islamic State group. Among those acquitted yesterday was Jarrah Nimr, owner of the car used to drop off the bomber.

In other developments, MP Abdullah Al-Turaiji yesterday questioned the interior minister about how Mahmoud Hajji Haider, a prominent Kuwaiti businessman, got Kuwaiti citizenship by birth, known as first-degree Kuwaiti nationality. The lawmaker asked the minister about the documents by which Haidar received his citizenship. He also asked if any of Haidar's sisters have also received citizenship and on what basis. Turaiji also inquired about the way other relatives of Haidar, a Kuwaiti of Iranian origin, obtained Kuwaiti citizenship.

Lawmaker Abdulhameed Dashti however strongly criticized Turaiji for asking about Haidar's nationality, saying that Haidar has been in Kuwait long before Turaiji himself. Dashti earlier criticized Turaiji for sending a series of questions about Kuwait and Gulf Link Co (KGL) and its activities at Kuwaiti ports. The company is owned by a Kuwaiti Shiite family. MP Mohammad Al-Jabri meanwhile threatened to grill Communications Minister Essa Al-Kandari if he does not answer questions about KGL.

Meanwhile, a decision by the legal and legislative committee to approve a proposal to stop medical treatment abroad for Kuwaiti patients caused an uproar. The proposal was sent to the health committee to study it and will finally go to the Assembly for a vote. MP Sultan Al-Shemmari said he is confident the health committee will not pass it while MP Majed Mousa said the proposal is not constitutional. MP Faisal Al-Duwaisan however said the proposal aims to force the government to hire highly professional doctors and to invite highly experienced physicians from abroad to provide medical treatment in the country. The government pays hundreds of millions of dinars every year to send Kuwaiti patients overseas.

By B Izzak