KUWAIT: Media banned from reporting on alleged Iran spy ring
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A report by the Kuwaiti Al-Qabas newspaper last weekend claiming that the country’s security services had dismantled a spy cell allegedly working for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has sparked a ruckus in the Kuwaiti parliament, raised diplomatic tensions and triggered rampant speculation in the Persian Gulf media.
Now, in an attempt to calm the situation, Kuwait has banned any more media reporting on the alleged spy cell.
On Thursday, the Kuwaiti English-language newspaper Kuwait Times reported that Public Attorney Hamed Al-Othman had issued a decision forbidding any more publication of news on the issue.
The report, which has not been verified by officials, has created multiple political headaches for the Kuwaiti government. Several Kuwaiti lawmakers, including Mohammad Hayef, a hard-line Islamist, called for the expulsion of the Iranian ambassador and pressed the government to speak out on the spy allegations. Predictably, Iranians were outraged. The Iranian Embassy in Kuwait strongly denied the media report, and a high-ranking official dismissed the allegations as a ‘Zionist plot’ to tarnish the image of the Revolutionary Guard.
‘The claim about identification and discovery of a spy web in Kuwait is in line with the [enemy] project to spread IRGC-phobia in the region,’ the Revolutionary Guard’s public relations head, Gen. Ramezan Sharif, told the semi-official Iranian news agency Fars. When Iran’s ambassador to Kuwait, Ali Jannati, recently met with the Kuwaiti minister of state for Cabinet affairs, Abdul Aziz Al-Roudhan, he expressed regret over what he referred to as ‘Kuwait propaganda’ on the issue, according to the Iranian Students News Agency. Jannati also called on the Kuwaiti government to adopt a clearer stance on the spy allegations against Iran.
The Kuwaiti government for its part has been tight-lipped on the issue, only offering limited information and not naming Iran.
‘Security agencies investigate whatever information they receive, including what has been reported lately,’ government spokesman Mohammed al-Baseeri said in a statement cited by the official Kuwaiti news agency KUNA. ‘The agencies are completing their investigation and procedures in prelude to referring it to court,’ he added.
The media ban comes as two stateless Arabs living in Kuwait reportedly were summoned Wednesday by the public prosecutor to answer questions in connection with in the alleged cell. Both denied having any links with the purported network or the Revolutionary Guard, according to the Kuwait Times report.
According to Al-Qabas, Kuwaiti security services arrested at least seven suspects in connection with the alleged spy network that was keeping an eye American and Kuwaiti military bases. The daily said the network was made up of six Kuwaitis and two stateless Arabs. Two Lebanese citizens living in Kuwait also played important roles in the network, the report said.
-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut
Upper photo: A view of Kuwait City. Credit: Agence France-Presse
Lower photo: Mohammad Hayef. Credit: Agence France-Presse