Kuwait Releases Journalists From Prison

Six Jordanian journalists were among 405 prisoners released from Kuwaiti prisons on Feb. 25 as part of a pardon by Emir Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah marking the sixth anniversary of the country’s liberation from Iraqi occupation.

The journalists were convicted by martial-law tribunals and state security courts between June 1991 and July 1992 of collaboration for their work with the newspaper Al-Nida, which served unofficially as Iraq’s propaganda mouthpiece in Kuwait. They were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10 years to life in trials that fell short of international fair-trial standards. Many of the defendants, who included journalists working in Kuwait prior to the occupation, had argued that they were coerced into working for the newspaper by Iraqi occupation forces.

Those freed on Feb. 25 include Abed Maazouz Ahmad Mustafa, Ali Ghazi Mahmoud al-Sayyed, Walid Hassan Muhammed Qaraqa, Daoud Suleiman Musa, Hassan Ahmad Hassan al-Khalili, and Muhammad Mahmoud Ahmad Zahran. Also released were four other Jordanian employees of the newspaper who were convicted on similar charges. They are Ahmad Muhammad Ahmad Hanoun, Jihad Tawfik Ibrahim Issa, Riad Fouad Shaker Ali, and Hosni Mahmoud Hassan Hussein.

In April 1996, Kuwaiti authorities released one Iraqi and two Jordanian journalists: Balqiss Hafez Fadhel, Zakarayat Mahmoud Harb, and Wafa Wasfi Ahmad. The three women had been sentenced in June 1991 to 10 years in prison by a martial law tribunal for what was reported as their coerced employment at Al-Nida. The recent prisoner releases have been interpreted by some observers as a sign of goodwill by the Kuwaiti government, which may wish to normalize relations with the Jordanian government seven years after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.

In March, CPJ wrote to Sheikh Saad Abdullah al-Sabah, Kuwait’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister, welcoming the emir’s pardon, but also urged the release of nine journalists still serving prison sentences for their work with Al-Nida.