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Tuesday, 13 March, 2001, 12:17 GMT
Kuwaiti quisling spared death penalty
Alaa Hussein
Hussein has demanded either death or a pardon
Kuwait's Cassation Court has commuted to life imprisonment a death sentence handed down to the country's pro-Iraqi puppet ruler during the 1990-91 Gulf crisis.

Kuwaiti military reservist Alaa Hussein was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death in May 2000 after returning voluntarily from a decade of exile in Iraq, Turkey and Norway.

We have been able to untie the noose from Alaa Hussein's neck

Defence lawyer Nawwaf al-Mutairim
At first it was announced that the death sentence had been upheld - and Hussein was taken from court believing that to be the case - but a written document giving the true verdict was later released.

Defence lawyer Nawwaf al-Mutairim told reporters he hoped Kuwait's ruler, Sheikh Jabir al-Ahmad Al Sabah, might issue a full pardon.

"We have been able to untie the noose from Alaa Hussein's neck," he said, having earlier expressed his "deep sadness" about the confusion over the death sentence.

Alaa Hussein 1990
Hussein allegedly relished his short-lived leadership
In previous hearings, the 42-year-old defendant has demanded either death or a full pardon, saying anything else would be an "insult".

He has always protested his innocence, saying that the Iraqis forced him to lead the short-lived puppet regime with threats against himself and his family.

He has also insisted the Kuwaiti Government promised him a pardon if he returned home, a claim denied by officials.

Unwilling puppet?

Commuting the sentence, Judge Abdullah al-Issa cited mitigating factors including Hussein's "good upbringing, his age and the fact that he returned home from his shelter in Norway at his own free will ... asking for clemency."

Hussein had told a lower court he had no idea why the Iraqis chose him from hundreds of Kuwaiti prisoners to head the pro-Iraqi cabinet.

Kuwaiti ruler Sheikh Jabir al-Ahmad
The Emir is Hussein's last hope
However, witnesses testified that he grew to relish his new-found role and began issuing orders to subordinates.

Other members of the puppet government surrendered themselves immediately after Kuwait was liberated by a US-led alliance in early 1991 and were all exonerated.

The circumstances of Hussein's being taken to Iraq, where he remained until 1997, are in dispute. He says he was forced to go.

He returned to Kuwait in January 2000 saying he wanted to prove he was not a collaborator.

He last chance for freedom now lies with Sheikh Jabir.

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26 Feb 01 | Middle East
Kuwait marks liberation
01 Aug 00 | Middle East
Flashback: Invasion of Kuwait
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