Kuwait MPs push for Islamic penal code

KUWAIT - Two Kuwaiti politicians have presented a controversial draft bill to parliament to amend the Gulf Arab state's penal code to meet Islamic sharia law, a legislative official said on Tuesday.

The draft law, presented by Islamist MP Waleed al-Tabtabaie and tribal Islamist MP Mikhled al-Azemi, is not due before full parliament until after a summer recess from June to October.

Amendments in the draft law include amputation of limbs for convicted thieves and flogging or stoning to death for adultery in the small country which already enforces capital punishment for murder and drug smuggling.

Strict measures and punishments are also in place to implement a ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages in the oil- rich state of some 825,000 Kuwaitis and 1.4 million foreigners.

"The draft law proposes amending the penal code to comply with sharia," Legislative Committee chairman Abdallah al-Roumi told Reuters. "It is a large draft law and the review process will take a long time."

"We have not really started yet, we are still in the ABC of the draft law. The sub-committee has to review it, then send it to the full Legal and Legislative Committee which has to review it and then send it to the (full) parliament," Roumi added.

He said a sub-committee held a single meeting on Monday and was not due to revisit the draft law until after the recess.

Previous legislative attempts had failed to bring the Muslim conservative state closer to what some politicians see as full adherence to sharia.

Roumi said it was premature to speculate on the chances of the draft law being passed by parliament -- the only such elected body in the Gulf Arab region.

Kuwait's parliament is made up of Islamist MPs from various groupings, including members of the minority Shi'ite Muslim sect, traditionalist tribal politicians, independent and liberal MPs representing a range of political schools of thought and un- elected government ministers who are ex-officio members.

Parliament's four-year term ends in mid-2003.

Roumi said the government had not been sounded out yet by the committee on the draft law.

Western diplomats and some Kuwaiti politicians doubt Kuwait will in the near future move to fully copy more strict laws in other Muslim states like neighbouring Saudi Arabia where women are not allowed to drive and have to meet a strict dress code in public.

The extent of sharia implementation varies among Muslim states.

05:51 07-10-01

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