Several Kuwaitis were rounded up
following the shootings
The suspects were arrested in February, some weeks before US-led forces launched the invasion of Iraq from neighbouring Kuwait.

   

A series of sometimes deadly attacks against Americans in the oil-rich state in recent months were blamed by local and US officials on suspected sympathisers of Al-Qaeda, which Washington accuses of perpetrating the September 2001 attacks on US cities.

 

The defendants were freed following their arrest, except for Ahmad al Mutairi, an employee of Kuwait Petroleum Corporation.

 

The other two main suspects are Abdullah Mutlaq al Mutairi, a low-ranking Defence Ministry officer, and Mussaed al Anzi, a border guard.

 

"They are all innocent and should be acquitted," their lawyer Ossama Monawar said after the court session, adding that the trial had been adjourned until 8 June.

 

Kuwait, a staunch US ally, has cracked down on Islamist activists opposed to the presence of American forces in the country. The US established a presence in Kuwait in 1991, when they dislodged occupying Iraqi forces from the country.

 

One of the defendants, Jaber al Jalahma, who lost an arm in a car accident, told reporters he had been tortured.

 

"They hung me from the ceiling by my one arm for four days forcing me to make false confessions. They accuse me of inciting the youth, but I am not at all active politically. I have only been engaged in charity and humanitarian activities," he said.

 

Heightened security

 

The US-led alliance launched the
invasion of Iraq from Kuwait
The emirate has beefed up security around Western diplomatic missions and vital oil facilities to deter possible attacks.

 

Interior Ministry spokesman General Adel al Hashash announced the security crackdown one day after Aljazeera broadcast what it said was a tape by a top Al-Qaeda official urging Muslims to attack the economic and political interests of the US, Britain and Norway.

 

Al Hashash said extra troops and security had been deployed around embassies, consulates and all other areas frequented by Westerners following this month's attacks in neighbouring Saudi Arabia and Morocco.

   

"Fifteen departments, including the state security agency, have gone on the highest state of alert and are working around the clock as of Wednesday evening," he told Reuters.

                  

"The ministry has found it suitable to implement such precautionary plans until the situation calms down," he said.