Kuwait denies citizens held by Iran were spying

AFP , Monday 14 Nov 2011

Kuwait denies that two of its citizens arrested in Iran are spying, saying they are working for a private television channel and had obtained visas to enter the Islamic republic

"An official source at the Kuwaiti foreign ministry categorically denied the accusation," made against the two citizens, said a statement posted on the state-run KUNA news agency late on Sunday.

Iran's Arabic-language satellite channel Al-Alam had earlier quoted local officials in Abadan, southwest of Iran, as saying that two Kuwaitis were arrested in the town on suspicion of spying and illegal entry.

Abdullah Kaabi, an Abadan MP also quoted by Al-Alam, said the pair were arrested on Friday and that they entered Iran "illegally."

"The two Kuwaiti citizens are working for a private Kuwaiti television channel and were on an assignment for the channel," the Kuwaiti foreign ministry statement said.

"They had obtained the necessary entry visas from Iranian authorities," added the Kuwaiti statement. "We have initiated contact with Iranian authorities to get clarification and secure their release."

Local Kuwaiti media named the two as Adel al-Yahya, a lawyer by profession and a presenter at Al-Adalah satellite channel, and freelance cameraman Raed al-Majed.

The station is part of a media group owned by leading businessman Mahmud Haider, a Shiite Kuwaiti of Iranian origin, considered a staunch supporter of Iran.

Al-Dar newspaper, also part of the media group, criticised the arrests and said the accusations were "baseless." It said that Yahya and Majed should not be punished for the arrest of an Iranian spy ring in Kuwait earlier this year.

Ties between the two Gulf neighbours were strained after a Kuwaiti court in March sentenced three people to death and two others to life in prison after convicting them of spying for Iran.

An appeals court is hearing the case and the next session is due to take place on November 20.

The case led to a tit-for-tat expulsion of diplomats but they later returned to the two capitals following a visit to Kuwait City by Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi on May 11.

Kuwait and the other Sunni-ruled Arab monarchies of the Gulf have repeatedly accused Shiite Iran of meddling in their internal affairs and of inciting primarily Shiite-led protests which rocked Bahrain earlier this year.

Manama crushed the pro-democracy protests in mid-March with the help of troops from other Arab states in the region, prompting condemnation from Iran.

On Sunday, Bahrain said it thwarted attacks by a "terrorist" cell it claimed is linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Five Bahrainis were arrested on allegations of planning attacks in the Sunni-led Arab kingdom.

Short link: