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Wednesday, March 14, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Death sentence commuted for Kuwaiti puppet leader

The Associated Press

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KUWAIT - An appeals court yesterday commuted the death sentence of a Kuwaiti officer who headed a short-lived puppet government after Iraq's 1990 invasion, reducing his sentence to life in prison.

Alaa Hussein, the lieutenant who was chosen to head the Iraqi-appointed government, had been convicted of treason and sentenced to death in May 2000.

Judge Abdullah al-Issa upheld the treason conviction but commuted the sentence to life imprisonment, saying the mitigating factors included Hussein's "good upbringing, his age and the fact that he returned home from his shelter in Norway at his own free will ... asking for clemency."

Hussein's lawyer, Nawwaf al-Mutairim, said he hoped Kuwait's emir might issue a full pardon.

"We have been able to untie the noose from Alaa Hussein's neck," he said.

Hussein had told a lower court he had no idea why Iraqis chose him from hundreds of war prisoners to head the puppet cabinet in Kuwait that served for about a week after Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990. He says that the Iraqis forced him to stay in Iraq after the war until 1997.

Witnesses for the prosecution testified that Hussein came to enjoy his position and giving orders in the puppet government.

The other members of the pro-Iraqi government surrendered to the Kuwaiti authorities after a U.S.-led coalition liberated Kuwait in February 1991. The authorities investigated and exonerated them.

Hussein, 41, lived in Iraq, Turkey and Norway until January 2000, when he returned home, saying he wanted to prove he was not a collaborator with Iraq.

Hussein, who is married with four children, has exhausted his court appeals and can only ask the emir for a pardon.

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