A martial-law court Tuesday gave attorneys more time to prepare defenses for 24 newspaper workers accused of collaborating with the Iraqis. The move came a day after the United States expressed concern about the fairness of Kuwait's judicial system.

After several hours of testimony, the judges agreed to a defense motion to recess the trial until June 1. The defendants could face hanging if convicted in connection for their alleged work on an Iraqi-run newspaper during the occupation.Many of those who went on trial Tuesday - most of them Palestinians who carry various passports - testified they were forced to work on the paper out of fear, need for money or to avoid being sent to Baghdad.

"I was afraid I would be raped if I did not work with them," said Ibtisam al-Dukhail, a Kuwaiti woman.

"I feared I would be tortured and I feared for my two children," said Jordanian Abdal Ruhman Al-Hussaini, who said he had written articles for the lifestyle section.

Western nations are watching the proceedings carefully in the light of widespread reports of reprisals by Kuwaiti security forces - including torture and killings - against alleged collaborators after the allies ousted Iraqi forces from Kuwait in February.

The court tried the first of an estimated 300 alleged collaborators on Sunday, and meted out stiff sentences in quick succession for six defendants without allowing witnesses to be called or presenting evidence publicly. Many defense attorneys were appointed on the spot.