KUWAIT CITY – A criminal court on Saturday acquitted two former Guantanamo Bay prisoners of joining Al Qaeda or the Taliban.
Omar Rajab Amin and Abdullah Kamel al-Kundari denied any terror connections at the start of their trial. Their lawyers argued there was no evidence against them and the case was "political." Defense attorneys said the accused were in Afghanistan for charity work — not to fight.
Details of the ruling, which was announced by a court clerk, were not immediately available. The two men were not in court Saturday, but one of their lawyers, Thikra al-Majdali, said she expected them to be released from custody by tomorrow.
The prosecution can appeal the ruling, but it was not clear Saturday if it would do so.
Amin, 41, and al-Kundari, 32, were released from the U.S. detention camp in September after spending nearly five years there. They were detained by authorities for questioning upon their return to Kuwait.
The prosecution claimed the pair had harmed Kuwait's political image by becoming members of Osama bin Laden's terror network and joining the ranks of Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime that hosted Al Qaeda and fought U.S. forces.
Kuwait, a small oil-rich state, has been a major ally of Washington since the U.S.-led 1991 Gulf War that liberated it from a seven-month Iraqi occupation under Saddam Hussein.
Six other Kuwaitis formerly held in Guantanamo have been acquitted here of terror charges. Another four are still imprisoned there.
"We call on the United States to either give our four sons a fair trial in America or any other place in the world, or to hand them to Kuwait so that they can be ... given their legal right to defend themselves," said Khaled al-Odah, who heads a private group that lobbies for the release of the Kuwaiti prisoners — including his son — from the U.S. naval base in Cuba.
The U.S. military did not charge Amin or al-Kundari with any crimes. According to military documents and David Cynamon, their attorney in Guantanamo, the two had ties to charities which were linked to terror groups and their names had been found on the hard drive of a computer seized from a suspected Al Qaeda member.
Scores of young Kuwaitis have fought alongside Muslim militants in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya and Iraq.