Kuwaiti delegation to visit Guantanamo Bay prisoners

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

KUWAIT -- A Kuwaiti security delegation will visit the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, next month to interrogate 12 Kuwaitis being held there on suspicion of ties to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terror network, a senior Kuwaiti official said Tuesday.

The team of security officials that was formed about two months ago is expected to leave Aug. 16, the official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The official said the group would identify and interrogate the Kuwaiti detainees and will be briefed on the U.S. investigation.

Relatives of the detainees have said they were in Afghanistan performing humanitarian work with Muslim charitable organizations and are not members of bin Laden's network which was blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks in the Untied States.

Kuwaiti Parliament Speaker Jassem al-Kharafi called Tuesday on the United States to allow relatives to visit the detainees in Guantanamo Bay, and to grant them "their right" for legal representation.

"Despite our tight ties with the United States ... we demand that the American government consider defendants innocent until proven guilty," al-Kharafi told reporters.

He said all prisoners, American or not, should be treated equally.

The families have appealed in U.S. District Court in Washington for their loved ones to be set free or given access to attorneys. The U.S. government argues the men captured in the war are "enemy combatants" without such rights.

Kuwait, which owes its 1991 liberation from a seven-month Iraqi occupation to a U.S.-led international coalition, is a major Gulf ally of Washington.

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