Criminal court acquits Al Arabiya correspondent of spreading false news

KUWAIT CITY (AP) — A correspondent of Arab satellite television network Al Arabiya was acquitted of spreading false news said to have harmed national interests, following a report about an alleged shoot-out between militants and police, a criminal court ruled Saturday.
The Dubai-based television station broadcast an official denial of the January report but the interior ministry said it “caused panic.” The correspondent, Kuwaiti Adel Eidan, had been out on bail and working throughout the trial.

Suleiman Al Samhan, a civil servant and a part-time reporter for the Kuwait News Agency, was also acquitted of supplying the information to Eidan. He is a Kuwaiti national.

It was not clear yet if the prosecution will appeal.

The reported shoot-out came amid increased security fears in this small oil-rich state, and followed warnings by the US embassy to its citizens of possible attacks against them. Less than a week after it was aired, a series of unprecedented clashes between Muslim extremists and police erupted.

Four policemen and eight suspected terrorists — believed to be members of a terror group called Lions of the Peninsula — were killed in these shoot-outs across the country, and their alleged ringleader later died in hospital.

The trial of 36 men and one woman allegedly involved with the group that planned to attack American troops and Kuwaiti security officers opened Tuesday.

Eidan’s lawyer, Thafer Al Bader, said his client could have faced a maximum penalty of three years in prison. He welcomed Saturday’s ruling, but he said he intended to sue for compensation because Eidan was mistreated by criminal investigators while in their custody in January.

He said the correspondent was beaten on the soles of his feet and in his abdomen. According to the Kuwaiti law, a civil court would award Eidan a temporary compensation of 5001 dinars ($17,185) if it is convinced he was mistreated. Based on that, Eidan can demand more.

Both attorneys said the men did not mean to “harm” their country.

Kuwait has been one of Washington’s greatest allies in the region since US-led forces liberated the oil-rich nation from an Iraqi invasion in the 1991 Gulf War. However, since 2002 Muslim militants opposing the US military presence there have carried out attacks against Americans, killing one Marine and a military contractor.

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