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      Kuwait Denies Deal to Release Iranian Spies

      Kuwait has denied it agreed to release convicted Iranian spies in exchange for two of its citizens detained for violating visa rules.
      By Gabe Kahn.
      First Publish: 12/21/2011, 9:01 PM

      Kuwait City
      Kuwait City
      CC/Mohammad Alatar

      Kuwait officials denied reports on Wednesday they had agreed to release two Iranians convicted by  Kuwait on espionage charges after Iran released two two Kuwaitis it detained for 36 days to go home.

      Tehran on Sunday released two Kuwaiti nationals, Adel Al Yahya, a lawyer and journalist, and Raed Al Majid, a television cameraman, which it initially held on spying charges and then violating visa rules.

      "There is no deal and there is no co-relation between the two cases," Kuwaiti foreign ministry deputy Mohammad Al Roumi told the Al Seyassah daily.

      "Adel Al Yahya and Raed Al Majid went to Iran on a tourist visa and not for spying activities. However, the pro-Iran spying case is now before the Kuwaiti justice which is well credited for its high honesty, credibility and fairness standards," he said.

      Al Roumi appeared to be reacting to a statement by Iran's deputy foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, that "Kuwaiti officials have promised to work to release a number of Iranians detained in Kuwait in the near future."

      The Iranian diplomat reportedly told Kuwaiti officials that "it was not acceptable for Iran to see a number of its citizens detained in Kuwait for a long time on baseless allegations."

      Two Iranians have been sentenced to death and one to life in prison by a Kuwaiti court for their involvement in a spy ring that was broken up last year. Their case is being reviewed by the appeals court and a verdict is expected in January.

      Members of the same ring were also arrested, tried, and convicted in Bahrain - which accuses Tehran of stoking unrest among the tiny island kingdom's majority Shia population against its Sunni monarchs.

      Meanwhile, Kuwaitis are preparing for new elections in February after the previous government resigned two weeks ago amid charges officials had absconded with some $300 million in public funds.

      In addition to allegations former Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad plundered government coffers to fill his foreign bank accounts , prosecutors are probing 15 former lawmakers suspected of selling their votes to senior officials.

      Despite the hue-and-cry, however, the well-fed and prosperous Kuwait remains relatively untouched by the so-called Arab Spring and its monarchy remains secure.

      Sheikh Nasser has resigned five times since 2006. Kuwait’s parliament has been dissolved three times since 2006 as well.

      Under Kuwait's constitution, should the winners of the next elections prove unable to form a government, Sheikh Nasser's government will be reconstituted.