August 12, 2017 / 7:39 AM / 6 days ago

Kuwait says arrests 12 convicted in 2015 Iran spy case

DUBAI (Reuters) - Kuwaiti authorities have arrested 12 people convicted in absentia of spying for Iran and Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah, the Interior Ministry said on Saturday.

Kuwait had charged 25 of its nationals – all of them Shi'ites – and an Iranian citizen after the discovery of guns and explosives in a raid on the so-called "Abdali cell" in 2015, which escalated sectarian tensions.

Kuwaiti prosecutors alleged that the men intended to carry out "hostile acts" against Kuwait.

One person was sentenced to death, the rest to prison terms. In June, Kuwait's highest court overturned the death sentence and reduced some of the prison terms while increasing others.

At least 14 were sentenced in absentia, including the Iranian national.

Iran has denied any involvement in the case.

"The interior ministry announces that security services have arrested in different regions 12 people sentenced in the so-called Abdali cell," a statement from the ministry and carried by the state news agency KUNA said.

Authorities are still searching for two others convicted in the same case and still on the run, the statement added.

Kuwait, which has a large Shi'ite Muslim minority, sits in a difficult geographical position, close to two major regional powers and arch foes - mainly Shi'ite Iran and Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia.

Reporting by Mohamed el Sherif; Editing by Adrian Croft

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