updated 12/27/2005 5:19:49 AM ET 2005-12-27T10:19:49

Six Kuwaitis and stateless Arabs, accused of joining a terrorist group that planned to attack U.S. troops in Kuwait, were convicted and sentenced to death on Tuesday. They were captured after clashing with Kuwaiti police in January.

The defendants were among 37 Kuwaitis and other nationals accused of joining the Lions of the Peninsula, a group the prosecution claimed was planning the attacks.

One of the group was given a life term, 22 others were ordered jailed for terms ranging from four months to 15 years. The court did not announce a verdict for the wife of the group's ringleader, Amer al-Enezi. He was undergoing cancer treatment outside the country. He died in custody of what authorities said was a heart attack.

Seven members of the group were acquitted.

The court said in a statement that the six sentenced to death deserved the maximum punishment because "they took their religious beliefs to the extreme, killed the innocent and terrorized the country and the people."

Men wanted to go to Iraq
After the January clash with police, which was an unprecedented incidence of terrorist violence in the tiny oil rich country, the group was found to have bombs and chemicals that could be used for making explosives.

The defense had argued the six sentenced to death -- three Kuwaitis and three stateless Arabs who live in Kuwait -- were planning to go to Iraq and asked for leniency from the court.

"I believe those young men have been deceived, and the way to deal with it is not tough sentences," their lawyer, Khaled al-Abdul-Jalil, told the three-judge panel last month. "They readied themselves only for jihad (holy war) in Iraq," he said.

After seeing the "crimes of the Americans in Iraq," including killing Muslim children and women, they believed that "jihad was their duty."

Signs of torture
Earlier this year, many of the defendants told the court that they had confessed under duress. Four of them removed their shirts in the courtroom to display scars on their backs.

Hussam Youssef Abdul-Rahim, a Jordanian defendant, said state security threatened to sexually abuse his wife, who was detained in another room, if he didn't say he knew that members of the group -- who once lived in his apartment -- had fought battles with police.

"I asked them to have mercy on me because I had undergone an operation on my right testicle, so they lashed me on it with a stick," he said at the time.

Majed Mayyah al-Mutairi, one of the suspects, had testified that he was taken to visit AL-Enezi before he died and that the leader had been "cut to pieces."

Al-Mutairi said he himself was not beaten but it "was enough" for him to see the tortured ringleader to sign a false confession.

Kuwait was a launch pad for the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and remains a logistics base for the international coalition, which is fighting an Iraqi insurgency that includes Islamic militants from other Arab nations.

Scores of Kuwaiti Islamic fundamentalists have fought in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia and Iraq. Kuwaiti authorities broke up the cell after the January clashes, which left eight suspected terrorists and four policemen dead.

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