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  Kuwait Strips Spokesman's Citizenship

The Associated Press
Sunday, Oct. 14, 2001; 2:18 p.m. EDT

KUWAIT –– The spokesman for Osama bin Laden's terrorist network was stripped of his Kuwaiti citizenship on Sunday, a move the government declared in the country's national interest.

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith has appeared on international television three times since the beginning of the U.S.-led bombing as the spokesman for al-Qaida, the Afghanistan-based group blamed for last month's attacks on New York and Washington.

In the broadcasts, Abu Ghaith praised the terrorist attacks and said there would be more to come. He also called on Muslims everywhere to wage holy war on Americans.

The Cabinet ordered Abu Ghaith's nationality revoked under article 14 of the 1959 citizenship law. The article entitles the government to withdraw the citizenship of those who "join the military service of a foreign country and do not heed orders from their government to leave it." It also applies to those who join organizations that undermine Kuwait's "social and economic system." Although the order requires the emir's approval, his signature is considered a formality.

Kuwait has declared support for the U.S. airstrikes on al-Qaida bases and Afghan military positions, attacks that began shortly before the first of the militant group's three broadcasts on the Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera.

Kuwaitis were surprised when Abu Ghaith appeared in the first broadcast sitting alongside bin Laden in a rocky setting in Afghanistan. He appeared to be a quiet school teacher and mosque preacher when he lived in Kuwait.

However, a week after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai Al-Amm had published a fatwa, or a religious edict, by Abu Ghaith in which he called on Muslims to fight "Jews, Americans and all their allies."

A Kuwaiti human rights lawyer criticized the government's move as wrong and politically motivated. "Such a decision should be controlled by the judiciary," Hassan al-Issa told The Associated Press.

Kuwait would help the United States more by "cracking down on extremists," he said, referring to Muslim fundamentalists, who hold 20 seats in the country's 50-seat parliament.

Kuwait's strong backing for the U.S. offensive in Afghanistan stems largely from Washington's leading role in the coalition that liberated Kuwait from a seven-month Iraqi occupation in February 1991.

© Copyright 2001 The Associated Press

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