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KUWAIT WILL LIFT MARTIAL LAW, DISBAND CRITICIZED TRIBUNALS

Kuwait announced Tuesday that it will lift martial law on Wednesday and disband special tribunals that sentenced nearly 30 people to die on charges of collaborating with Iraqi occupiers.

The end of martial law will be an important step toward returning Kuwait to normal following the gulf war.The law, in effect since U.S.-led allied soldiers forced Iraqi troops from Kuwait in late February, will expire midnight Wednesday, Justice Minister Ghazi Obeid al-Sammar said in an interview from his home.

"It was extended for a month. It won't be extended again," al-Sammar said.

The martial-law courts, which have been widely criticized by international human rights groups and Western governments, will be disbanded and the remaining cases sent to the general prosecutor for distribution to the regular court system, the justice minister said.

The normal courts offer more protection of defendants' rights, giving them greater access to counsel and the right to appeal convictions to the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.

The sentences that have been returned by the martial-law courts since they began work May 19 will remain in effect, he said.

Some 325 of 450 defendants have already been tried in the martial-law courts, with 29 condemned to death. Most have been Jordanians, Palestinians, Iraqis and stateless Arabs.

Kuwait's royal family has been criticized for moving too slowly to rebuild the country after the occupation.