ABU DHABI ø Kuwait's intelligence service was said to have been
monitoring at least 25 parliamentarians for links to anti-regime activities.
Kuwaiti parliamentarian and former speaker Ahmad Al Saadoun asserted
that the sheikdom's security agencies were monitoring 25 lawmakers. Al
Saadoun said the decision to monitor the 25 parliamentarians was taken
recently by Kuwaiti security chiefs.
"A meeting has taken place at the state security agency and those
attending were assigned to spy on 25 parliamentarians," Al Saadoun told
parliament on June 1.
Parliamentarians said the effort was meant to monitor the activities of
the Islamic opposition. They said the effort has focused on Shi'ite members
believed to have been in contact with Iran.
"Twenty-five parliamentarians met at parliamentarian Waleed Al Jari's
residence recently," Al Saadoun said. "The state
security agency asked its members to watch the parliamentarians under the
pretext that they were worried about their safety."
The assertion by Al Saadoun took place during a parliamentary debate on
a law that would limit public gatherings in Kuwait. The Public Gathering
Law allows authorities to reject any license for a demonstration without
Al Saadoun said Kuwaiti authorities have also tapped the telephones of
the 25 parliamentarians. He envisioned greater restrictions on individual
freedoms with the signing of the new counter-terrorism agreement by the Gulf
Cooperation Council in April.
"The country is threatened," Al Saadoun said. "What protects us is not
good security, but the degree of freedom we have.
"The GCC counter-terrorism pact is worse than the GCC Security Pact [which
Kuwait refused to sign in 2003]."
Parliamentarians have drafted a new bill that eases restrictions on
political protests. The draft legislation would require organizers to notify
authorities of public gatherings without waiting for approval. The bill has
been stuck in the powerful Interior and Defense Committee of parliament
since late 2003.
"Look at progressive countries," parliamentarian Yusef Al Zalzalah said.
"In America, demonstrations protesting against
Bush policies are held under the protection of police. Kuwait which claims
to be democratic still has this shameful law."
For his part, Kuwaiti Defense Minister Jaber Al Mubarak Al Sabah denied
that authorities had placed the parliamentarians under surveillance. Mubarak
said the government was prepared to order an investigation.
"It is totally baseless," Mubarak said.