An Australian man on trial in Kuwait charged with insurgency, and who claims he has been tortured, will know this month if he will face the noose. Hall Greenland reports.
The trial of Tallaal Adrey, reported to be yet another Australian facing the death penalty overseas, has now concluded in Kuwait City. The verdict is scheduled to be handed down on December 27.
Adrey and his 20 co-accused, in what was billed as Kuwait’s biggest terrorist trial, were expected to face the executioner after the prosecution demanded "the maximum penalty". In Kuwait, that means death by hanging. Adrey’s Kuwaiti lawyer, however, told The Bulletin last weekend that he expects his client, if found guilty, will instead receive a jail sentence.
Originally from a Bedouin family, Adrey was expelled from Kuwait after the Gulf War and made his way to Australia as a refugee. He was granted citizenship in 1997 but returned to Kuwait in 2002 reportedly to care for his mother.
His troubles began in January, after armed clashes between police and Islamist militants belonging to an organisation called the Peninsula Lions Brigade left 14 people dead. In the subsequent crackdown, Adrey was arrested in his home in mid-February. The Kuwaiti authorities then rejected no less than 22 requests from the Australian government for consular access to the prisoner before it was granted at the end of May. Adrey claimed that, during that period, he had been held in solitary confinement and tortured.
On the opening day of Adrey’s trial in June, an Australian embassy officer was denied entrance to the courtroom. "They do things differently here," says Alistair Adams, the Australian embassy officer who was eventually admitted as the official Australian observer at the trial. This is something of an understatement. During the trial, Adrey and his fellow defendants sat shackled in a cage while the court was packed with special forces soldiers wearing balaclavas.
On the first day, according to Kuwait’s Arab Times, defendants tore at their clothes to reveal wounds they claimed were the result of torture. The presiding judge appointed a panel of three doctors to investigate their claims – ripping out fingernails appears to be the torture of choice of the Kuwaiti police. Two of the doctors reported no evidence; the third found evidence consistent with mistreatment. "It was really unsatisfactory because the doctors didn’t report until late September," says Martin Hodgson, an Adrey family friend, "and the torture was in March."
Everyone agrees that things have improved – at least for Adrey. "After we eventually gained access to him, his prison conditions improved," says Bruce Billson, parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs. "Now he has access to his lawyer and can phone his family and mix with other prisoners."
Originally charged with importing and possessing illegal arms and preparing attacks on foreign forces, the charges against Adrey were reduced during the course of the trial. His lawyer, Mohammed Al-Monawer, says his client now stands accused of being a member of a banned organisation and smuggling Kalashnikov assault rifles into Kuwait from Iraq. If found guilty of these offences, the penalty is three to 10 years’ jail, according to Monawer.
When asked if the evidence against Adrey was strong, Monawer replied: "There is no evidence." How then can the authorities charge him? "The charges are based solely on confessions extracted by [pause] what is the word? [pause] Force." Another defence lawyer was more upfront; he told the court the Kuwaiti police should be awarded the Nobel prize for contributions to torture.
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