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‘All video, audio tampered with’ SPEAKER DEFERS TO PROSECUTION ON ‘COUP TAPE’

KUWAIT CITY, April 15: Kuwait’s prime minister told MPs Tuesday that a videotape allegedly showing former senior officials plotting a coup was “tampered with,” parliament Speaker Marzouk Al- Ghanem said after a secret session.

Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Sabah “showed reports by specialised foreign sides affirming without doubt that the audio recordings and the videotapes which they examined had been tampered with and do not represent genuine and reliable copies,” Ghanem said.

The reports also indicate that “parts of the audio recordings (on the videotape) had been removed,” the speaker said in a statement he read after the three-hour debate demanded by the prime minister and 15 MPs. Ghanem said the videotapes were shown to MPs during the secret session and that parts of them were unclear.

The government informed parliament that it will hand over all the tapes and related documents to the public prosecution, which is currently conducting an investigation, he said. Parliament rejected a proposal to form an investigative panel into the videotape with a landslide majority of 50 members against seven, the speaker said. In a statement to journalists after the session, Parliament Speaker Al-Ghanim said he decided not to reveal any details about debates during the secret session regarding this question, in compliance with the Public Prosecutor’s decision to prohibit holding public debates about the matter.

The National Assembly Speaker hoped Kuwait would be spared “seditions, any act that might destabilize the homeland,” stressing on necessity of “folding the chapter of irrational political activities and preoccupying people with pointless political wrangling aimed at distracting the constitutional institutions from proceeding tasks and finalizing files that concern the citizens.” Dissolution of the National Assembly “is in safe hands, the hands of His Highness the Amir, and this is the sentiment shared by majority of the MPs who are not scared with buzzing rumors about dissolving the parliament.” He indicated that proposed modifications on the financial market authority would be examined by the relevant parliamentary committees.

Speaker Al-Ghanim explained in the statement he read to the National Assembly that His Highness the Prime Minister moreover reviewed at the closed door meeting “all independent reports acquired from specialized sources which confirmed the fact that all the video and audio recordings had been tampered with in one way or another.” Following the showing of the tapes at the closed door meeting, His Highness the Prime Minister opened the field for any questions the lawmakers attending the meeting might have wanted to ask him about. A number of MPs requested for the formation of a parliamentary inquiry commission to look into the issue but 50 members voted against it and only seven were in favor, because the prosecution has banned discussing this issue openly.

Meanwhile, some MPs like Ali Al- Rashid declined to comment on what took place in the secret session while others did so. MPAbdul-Hameed Dashti claimed the tape shown by the government is fabricated and contains lies. He stressed the need to assure the people of Kuwait that the tape does not contain anything which may pose a grave threat to national security and stability. He said the session should not have been held behind closed doors as the issue does not concern them.

He pointed out the issue is now in the hands of the judiciary, and all the MPs, who watched the video, are convinced it was fabricated; hence, it should not occupy the minds of the people. He urged the prime minister and the ruling family to take the necessary action to prevent the unscrupulous individuals from taking advantage of the situation. He is convinced that those who fabricated the tape will be brought to book.

MP Khali Abdullah thanked the prime minister for giving the MPs an opportunity to know the content of the tape.

He said the content of the tape is vulgar and every honest citizen will be hurt upon seeing it. He called on the minister of interior and his team to play their role effectively, “because the enemy does not come from outside. The law must be applied on everyone and any citizen should not feel inferior to others.” He wondered why the people are being dragged into the issue and demanded for the independence of the judiciary. He pointed out that if the people will be asked if they trust the judiciary, they might express frustration due to the slow manner by which the authority deals with cases. He underlined the need to address the issue from its roots, arguing that the tape is not a problem while the future of Kuwait must be the top priority. On the other hand, MP Abdul Karim Al-Kandari believes it is better to resolve the issue politically rather than treat it as a judicial or criminal case. He asked why the tape was not handed over to the prosecution from the beginning, considering it has been in the hands of the premier for four months now.

He lamented, “Unfortunately, we did not find an answer to this question.” MP Hamdan Al-Azmi said the recent incidents in the country are unacceptable; particularly the tape issue and the allegation that some people received money from the premier. He pointed out the problem is between the ruling family members but many MPs are involved in the conflict. He claimed some MPs, who support Sheikh Nasser Mohammad, Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak, Sheikh Fahd Ahmed and Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al- Ahmad, are affiliated to business people. He urged the ruling family and the authority to resolve their differences and make the people rest.

Furthermore, in the earlier part of the session, Minister of Oil and State Minister for National Assembly Affairs Ali Al-Omair denied the allegation made by MP Safa Al-Hashim last week that the government had threatened to push for the dissolution of the Parliament if discussion on the children allowance increment bill is not postponed until the next legislative round. He asserted both the government and the legislature have no under the sole jurisdiction of HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. He added, “We seek cooperation with the Parliament. Maybe, our colleague, Al-Hashim did not hear the matter correctly or the person who conveyed it to her did it in a wrong way.” After three hours, the Parliament resumed its regular open session to discuss items in its agenda; starting with the incoming documents and letters.

This led to the approval of the Human Resource Committee’s request to extend the deadline to submit a report on the unification of the salary and end-of-service package towards the end of the current legislative term.

The Parliament also approved the panel’s suggestion to ask the Legislative Affairs Committee to present its report on the Human Rights Bureau within two weeks. The Parliament agreed to give the Legislative Affairs Committee to prepare and submit its report regarding the Capital Market Authority Bill, while the Financial Affairs Committee was allowed one month, starting from the date of receiving the bill from the legislative panel, to prepare and submit its report. The committee investigating the multimillion deposit scandal also requested for extension to submit its report and the Assembly gave it six months from the day of formation.

During the discussion, MP Yousef Al- Zalzala pointed out that the work of committees has been delayed because the Legislative Committee is slow. He explained that based on the internal regulations, the committee’s only job is to review a bill and determine its constitutionality, as well as its composition, and then it is to be referred to the concerned authority.

He noted the committee is slowing the pace of work by inviting ministers to review a bill, which is supposed to be the job of the committee in charge of the bill. Commenting on the issue, Head of the Legislative and Legal Affairs Committee MP Mubarak Al-Hurais asserted it is not a question of slow process, but a question of quality. On inviting ministers and other governmental officials, the MP affirmed this happens only when there are loopholes in the bill. He underscored the need to discuss the loopholes with government officials to clarify everything, concluding this will ease the work of the next committee. The speaker then adjourned the session until Wednesday.


By: Abubakar A. Ibrahim and Ahmed Al-Naqeeb Arab Times Staff and Agencies

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