Kuwait intelligence monitoring opposition lawmakers for Iran ites

Thursday, June 10, 2004

ABU DHABI 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 reason.

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.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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