KUWAIT: Kuwait put seven people to death for murder on Wednesday, the public prosecution said, in the first executions since 2017. One Ethiopian woman and one Kuwaiti woman were among those hanged, along with three Kuwaiti men, a Syrian and a Pakistani, a statement said. The convicts were executed at the Central Prison.

The prosecution said in the statement one of the Kuwaitis had committed two murders, possessed unlicensed firearms and ammunition. The other male citizen had been found guilty of a perpetrated crime and possessing guns and ammunition without permits. He had also used a firearm in a residential district, drank alcohol in public and drove a vehicle after drinking.

The third Kuwaiti man was convicted of preplanned killing and possessing and using unlicensed firearms and ammunition. The Kuwaiti woman was found guilty of a premeditated crime. The convicted Syrian man had taken hostages, killing a person and stealing his mobile phone. The Pakistani man had been handed the death sentence for intentional killing and committing adultery. The Ethiopian woman was executed for intentional killing.

The executions are the first since Jan 25, 2017, when the country also hanged a group of seven people. They coincided with a visit by European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas. "The EU calls for a halt to executions and for a complete de facto moratorium on carrying out the death penalty, as a first step towards a formal and full abolition of the death penalty in Kuwait," the bloc said in a statement.

The EU also summoned Kuwait's ambassador and warned the country's bid to get visa-free travel to the bloc was at risk because of the executions. Schinas said "consequences" will be drawn from the executions, which he alleged took place despite him receiving "assurances to the contrary" from Kuwaiti officials.

Schinas, who is tasked with "promoting our European way of life", was in Kuwait to discuss that issue and others when the executions were carried out. "We will draw the consequences that this will have on the discussions... to put Kuwait on the visa free list," Schinas said in a statement. He said the EU's foreign service arm had summoned Kuwait's ambassador to the EU in Brussels over the development.

Schinas noted that the European Parliament was to vote Thursday on a European Commission proposal to put Kuwait on the EU's visa-free list. If adopted the measure, long sought by Kuwait, would allow Kuwaiti citizens to enter the European Union for short stays of up to three months without the need for a Schengen visa which is currently required. Qatar, which is hosting the World Cup football tournament from this weekend, is also part of the commission proposal.

Schinas also said the executions would color a previously arranged "human rights dialogue" between the EU and Kuwait next week. Schinas and the EU's European External Action Service both strongly condemned the executions. "Human rights issues are at the core of (the) EU's internal and external relations, directly affecting all our policies," a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

Kuwait has executed dozens of people since it introduced the death penalty in the mid-1960s. Most of those condemned have been murderers or drug traffickers. In April 2013, Kuwaiti authorities hanged three men convicted of murder. Two months later, two Egyptians, convicted of murder and abduction, were executed. - Agencies