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Kuwaitis sentence collaborator to death

A military tribunal handed down its first death sentence Saturday against one of more than 200 people accused of collaborating with Iraq's occupation forces. A stateless Arab resident of Kuwait, Mankhi al-Shammari, was sentenced to be hanged for joining the Iraqi Popular Army, a militia that supported Saddam Hussein's regular army, during Baghdad's seven-month occupation of the emirate.

Shammari, slight and dressed in a traditional but soiled white robe, admitted having joined the force but said he did so only because he feared the Iraqis would take revenge on his family.

He said nothing but looked stunned when the presiding judge of the five-member panel said that because he had admitted joining the Popular Army he should go to the gallows. No date was set for the execution. There is no right of appeal in such trials.

Defense lawyers said confessions made by the accused to police investigators had been obtained through duress and torture and alleged that their clients were being singled out because they were not Kuwaiti citizens.

In a related development, Kuwait's chief prosecutor said he was investigating up to eight complaints of torture by police in the roundup of suspected collaborators with Iraq, and promised to protect anyone wanting to file similar charges.

The allegations touched a raw nerve in Kuwait, which has been accused by human rights groups of failing to stop torture, detention and killings of its Palestinian community because of Palestine Liberation Organization support for Baghdad in the gulf war.

The government has assured its Western allies that such excesses have been stopped, but human rights groups say detention and torture continue.

Last month, Crown Prince Sheikh Saad al-Abdulla al-Sabah ordered a crackdown on human rights abuses he said were tarnishing the emirate's image.

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