Kuwait to expel Iran diplomats for 'spying'
Kuwait is to expel a number of Iranian diplomats for alleged links to a spy ring working for Tehran, reportedly since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the foreign minister announced on Thursday.
"There will be action against a group of Iranian diplomats ... They will be considered persona non grata and expelled from Kuwait," Sheikh Mohammed al-Sabah told reporters.
He charged the diplomats had proven links to the suspected spy ring, three members of which a Kuwaiti court condemned to death to Tuesday.
An Iranian foreign ministry source, quoted earlier by state news agency IRNA, denied any such link. "This claim is a lie and baseless. This issue has nothing to do with the Islamic Republic of Iran," the source insisted.
The three men condemned to death -- two Iranians and a Kuwaiti national -- were all serving in Kuwait's army at the time of their arrest in May 2010. Iran at the time also strongly denied any involvement.
The trial which opened last August was held behind closed doors, and judge Adel al-Sager slapped a news blackout on the case.
The court heard charges that the spy ring had passed on confidential military information to a foreign nation, taken pictures of Kuwaiti military installations and spied for Iran.
The ruling "showed a conspiracy was being hatched against Kuwaiti political, economic and military security," by Iran, the foreign minister said.
"What we saw in the ruling has shocked us ... that there is a conspiracy network linked to official sides in the Islamic republic. As a result we have set up a foreign ministry crisis cell and recalled our ambassador" from Tehran.
Sheikh Mohammed said Iran's charge d'affaires at its embassy in Kuwait City, Sayyed Mohammed Shehabi, was summoned to the foreign ministry and handed an official protest.
According to local media, the men confessed to monitoring and photographing Kuwaiti and US military sites for the Revolutionary Guard, but the defendants denied the charges in court and said confessions were extracted under torture.
Kuwait's Al-Qabas newspaper on Thursday said three Iranian diplomats were involved in the spy cell but the court could not prosecute because of their diplomatic immunity.
Iranian diplomats started to recruit members of the ring a decade ago, according to the daily which cited details of the court ruling.
It said cell members had during the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq supplied Tehran with information on Kuwaiti army and coalition movements stationed in the emirate, used as a springboard for the campaign.
A day after the alleged cell was busted, several MPs called for the expulsion of Shiite Iran's ambassador in Kuwait City and for the recall of the emirate's envoy to Tehran.
About 45,000 Iranians live and work in the oil-rich emirate, which has a sizeable Shiite minority.