x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Former Kuwait premier refuses to appear at graft investigation

Sheikh Nasser Mohammad Al Ahmad Al Sabah, who was cleared by a special judicial tribunal, says the summons can only question ministers and government employees.

Kuwaiti MP Faisal Al Muslim, left, said the parliamentary panel has not accepted Sheikh Nasser's refusal to attend the hearing and a new summons has been issued for May 26.
Kuwaiti MP Faisal Al Muslim, left, said the parliamentary panel has not accepted Sheikh Nasser's refusal to attend the hearing and a new summons has been issued for May 26.

KUWAIT CITY // Kuwait's ex-premier Sheikh Nasser Mohammad Al Ahmad Al Sabah refused to appear before a parliamentary panel probing alleged graft against him, saying the summons issued to him were illegal.

In a letter, Sheikh Nasser said the parliamentary panel had no authority to summon a former premier as it can only question ministers and government employees.

The former premier, a senior member of the Gulf state's ruling family, also said that he was cleared by a special judicial tribunal that on Thursday decided to end its inquiry into the case, citing a lack of evidence.

Sheikh Nasser was supposed to have appeared before the parliamentary probe on Monday.

Sheikh Nasser, who was prime minister between February 2006 and November 2011, is accused by the opposition of transferring millions of dollars of public funds into his overseas bank accounts.

He has categorically denied the allegations, saying that "all the transfers were in the service of the interests of Kuwait and contained no personal benefit".

Head of the parliamentary panel, opposition MP Faisal Al Muslim told reporters that the committee has not accepted Sheikh Nasser's refusal to attend and has issued new summons for May 26.

Last week, the panel questioned the prime minister, Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al Sabah, who promised the government will cooperate with the probe.

Although the judicial tribunal ended the inquiry, the graft allegations are still being investigated independently by the parliamentary probe panel formed in March and the Audit Bureau, the state accounting watchdog.

Sheikh Nasser resigned on November 28 under pressure from youth-led street protests which intensified after allegations of corruption were made against him in August and September last year.

That was followed by dissolving the parliament and holding snap polls in which the opposition scored an impressive victory.

Also yesterday, Human Rights Watch called on Kuwait's ruler to sign into a law the amendments passed by parliament to significantly reduce durations of pre-trial detention.

"The law would eliminate unlimited renewals of pre-trial detention and significantly limit the periods allowed for pre-trial investigative detentions," said the New York-based rights organisation.

"Ending unlimited judicial renewals of pre-trial detention will help eliminate a significant source of the abuse of detainee rights," Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW was quoted as saying in a statement.

"Every Kuwaiti will be safer and freer from the risk of arbitrary treatment because of this new law," Ms Whitson added.

The new bill allows police to detain suspects for up to two days, down from four and an investigator or a prosecutor to remand suspects in custody for 10 days from the current 21.