Kuwait has renewed the detention of 8 individuals suspected of financing the Iran-backed Lebanese militia group, Hezbollah, as the dispute between Gulf states and the group continues to grow.

In November, 18 people were arrested and detained by Kuwaiti prosecutors, on suspicion of “membership in a prohibited party, money laundering and spying”. Their detention was meant to be only 21 days, but it was renewed and extended in December.

According to Kuwait’s Al-Qabas newspaper today, the judge has again ordered the renewal of 8 of the defendants’ detention and “rejected all requests for release.”

There have reportedly been 24 defendants altogether in the ongoing case labelled ‘Hezbollah financing’, with varying groups of them having their cases dealt with and determined separately. Two of the suspects who were Egyptian were expelled from Kuwait last month following their interrogation.

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The Kuwaiti court’s order comes at a time when tensions and a diplomatic row continue to escalate between the Gulf Arab states – led primarily by Saudi Arabia – and the Lebanese government along with Hezbollah.

Kuwait pulled out its ambassador from Lebanon in October, following in the footsteps of its Gulf neighbours, in retaliation to then-Lebanese Information Minister, George Kordahi’s criticism of Riyadh over its war in Yemen. The diplomatic withdrawal also took place as a protest against Hezbollah’s political gains in Lebanon.

Kuwait’s opposition to Hezbollah dates back to at least 2016, when the government – under the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – branded the movement as a terrorist organisation after convicting a group of Kuwaiti Shias for allegedly spying for Hezbollah and Iran.

READ: Lebanon is ‘held hostage by Iran’, yet coercion from the Gulf suggests otherwise

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