KUWAIT: Shiite MP Saleh Ashour called yesterday on the interior minister to form a neutral committee to probe claims by Hezbollah-linked cell members that they had been tortured to extract confessions. Ashour said in a statement that the committee should investigate the claims and find people responsible for the torture and take legal action against them. He said that torture of suspects is prohibited under international covenants signed by Kuwait and is also banned under the Kuwaiti constitution and laws.

Twenty-three Shiite suspects told the court on Tuesday that they were systematically tortured by severe beatings and repeated electric shocks to force them to sign prepared confessions at the state security. The men along, with three others still at large, are charged with being members of the Shiite Lebanese militia group Hezbollah and of collaborating with Iran and Hezbollah to carry out attacks against Kuwait.

The cell was busted last month when a huge arms cache was seized at a farm in Abdaly near the borders with Iraq and at the residence of the main suspect, who told the court that the arms were old and from the Iraqi invasion period in 1990-91. He said he used them to fight against Iraqi occupation and was asked by a senior resistance leader to hide the weapons. Judge Mohammad Al-Duaij declined requests by defense lawyers to free the suspects and set Sept 29 for the next hearing.

In another development, the constitutional court postponed for the second time a highly anticipated ruling on a gender segregation law at educational institutions. The court set Sept 30 for the next hearing. The court is looking into a challenge by a Kuwaiti lawyer against the law enacted about 15 years ago that requires segregation between male and female students at universities.

The lawyer insists that the law is not in line with the Kuwaiti constitution, which calls for equality. Separately, the family of Kuwaiti Guantanamo bay detainee Fayez Al-Kandari said that a committee responsible for Guantanamo detainees recently informed them that Fayez would be released soon.

Notably, Kandari’s case was reviewed at a recent hearing and Kuwait’s embassy in the US confirmed that his release process was going on according to plan.

Meanwhile, chairman of the Guantanamo detainees’ families committee Khalid Al-Odah said that along with lawyer Eric Lewis, they were notified of Kandari’s release within 45-60 days, if all goes normal. Odah added that the US defence secretary would notify Congress in writing about the council’s decision pending turning Kandari over to Kuwait authorities, where he would be subjected to the same procedures his fellow detainees had undergone on returning home.

By B Izzak and A Saleh