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Kuwait orders death sentence for men accused of spying for Iran

The sentences come amid heightened tensions between Gulf Arab kingdoms and Iran following the execution of an outspoken Shia cleric in Saudi Arabia earlier this month.
By Fred Lambert Contact the Author   |   Jan. 12, 2016 at 12:45 PM

KUWAIT CITY, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- A court in Kuwait sentenced two men to death Tuesday after finding them guilty of spying for Iran and plotting attacks in the Gulf Arab kingdom.

The men -- one Kuwaiti, the other an Iranian who was not present at the proceeding, according to the BBC -- are part of a larger group of 26 suspects accused of being members of or affiliated with a "secret cell" in collaboration with Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah movement.

Prosecutors allege the men were in possession of weaponry, including firearms and explosives, and were plotting "hostile schemes against the country," Kuwaiti state news reported.

At least 19 others were charged Tuesday with sentences ranging from five to 15 years in prison. Three suspects were acquitted, and one was fined $16,450.

The sentencing comes amid heightened tensions between Sunni-led nations and Iran following the execution of a prominent and outspoken Shia Muslim cleric in Saudi Arabia earlier this month.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was among 47 terror suspects executed by Riyadh on Jan. 2, sparking international condemnation. The cleric was accused of inciting protests against the kingdom in Shia-populated areas during the Arab Spring.

In response, protesters sacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran, prompting multiple Sunni states, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Sudan, to cut ties with Iran. The United Arab Emirates and Kuwait recalled their envoys from Tehran last week.

On Thursday, Iran accused the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen of conducting an airstrike against its embassy in the country's capital of Sanaa.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the Saudi executions, saying the trials "raised serious concerns over the nature of the charges and the fairness of the process."

"The secretary-general also calls for calm and restraint in reaction to the execution of Sheikh al-Nimr and urges all regional leaders to work to avoid the exacerbation of sectarian tensions," a U.N. statement read. "He deplores the violence by demonstrators against the Saudi Embassy in Tehran."

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