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Cairo: The trial of a group of Kuwaitis and expatriates charged with illegally funding Lebanon’s pro-Iran Hezbollah movement opened on Tuesday with a session held behind closed doors, local media reported.

At the start of the first hearing in the trial, the Criminal Court barred audience from attending the session during which all defendants pleaded not guilty, Al Qabas newspaper said.

The court rejected a request from the defence lawyers for lifting a travel ban on defendants.

The hearings were postponed until June 21 to allow more time for examining evidence related to the high-profile case.

The indictment bill included 11 Kuwaitis and seven expatriates working at foreign exchange offices charged with making illegal financial transfers.

Nationalities of the foreign defendants were not disclosed.

The defendants in the case were earlier released from detention on bails with a travel ban.

Last November, Kuwait announced dismantling a cell suspected of having connections with Hezbollah and financing its activities.

The suspects were questioned by the Kuwaiti State Security Service on charges including money laundry for Hezbollah, encouraging young Kuwaitis to collaborate with the Lebanese group, carrying out terror acts and smuggling drugs in Syria and Yemen, Kuwaiti media said at the time.

The case surfaced amid a diplomatic crisis between the Gulf countries, including Kuwait, with Lebanon after its then information minister George Kurdahi had made remarks supporting Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels. Kurdahi resigned in December amid efforts to defuse the crisis.

In April, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia sent back their ambassadors to Lebanon in a sign of a thaw in their ties.

In recent years, Kuwait made several arrests over links with and funding of Hezbollah.

In 2015, Kuwait uncovered a group, dubbed Al Abadli Cell, charged with spying for Iran and Hezbollah as well as stockpiling weapons.