Kuwait closes Shia TV as crackdown widens

Kuwait closes Shia TV as crackdown widens

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Kuwait has shut down a Shia satellite television channel, accusing one of its owners of having links to Iran and Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah.

The official Kuwait News Agency reported on Thursday that the private Shia Al Kout TV’s broadcast licenses had been revoked.

It named the owner as Bassel Dashti, saying he was a former member of the so-called “Abdali cell,” which Kuwait claims was in contact with Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and Hezbollah.

The agency said Dashti was sentenced to five years earlier this month on charges of “contributing to bringing weapons and receiving illegal training.”

Kuwait City announced in 2015 that it had disbanded “Abdali cell”, and charged its “26 members” with possessing weapons, smuggling explosives, and planning “hostile actions” inside Kuwait.

They received sentences ranging from a few years in prison to, in one case, the death penalty, though the latter sentence was later reduced to life imprisonment.

The defendants were later acquitted on appeals and set free. Kuwait’s Supreme Court, however, overturned their acquittal and sentenced them to between five and 15 years in prison.

Earlier in July, Iran said its ambassador to Kuwait met with Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry officials, who told him “it would be better” for the staffers at the Iranian diplomatic mission to reduce in number, and that the mission was advised to take action towards downsizing the workforce within a month and a half.

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Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned Kuwait’s charge d’affaires afterwards.

Recently, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said the relations stayed at ambassadorial level, but noted, “This is contemptible,” reminding that Tehran reserved the right to counteract.

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