Saudis con­demn 15 to death for spy­ing for Iran

Kuwait Times - - NEWS -

A Saudi court yes­ter­day sen­tenced 15 peo­ple to death for spy­ing for the king­dom’s ri­val Iran, lo­cal me­dia and a source close to the case said, in a move likely to heighten re­gional ten­sions. Their trial opened in Fe­bru­ary, a month af­ter Riyadh cut diplo­matic ties with Tehran over the burn­ing of the Saudi em­bassy and a con­sulate by Ira­nian demon­stra­tors protest­ing the king­dom’s ex­e­cu­tion of cleric Nimr Al-Nimr. The most se­ri­ous charge lev­eled against them was high trea­son.

Pros­e­cu­tors also al­leged the ac­cused had di­vulged de­fense se­crets, tried to com­mit sab­o­tage, to re­cruit moles in gov­ern­ment de­part­ments, to send coded in­for­ma­tion, and sup­ported “ri­ots” in the east­ern dis­trict of Qatif, Saudi me­dia re­ported. The 15 were among a group of 32 peo­ple tried over the es­pi­onage al­le­ga­tions, Al­riyadh news­pa­per said. Some of the de­fen­dants were ac­cused of meet­ing Iran’s supreme leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei.

The death sen­tences will be ap­pealed, said the source close to the case, who can­not be iden­ti­fied due to its sen­si­tiv­ity. Two of the group were ac­quit­ted while the rest re­ceived jail sen­tences of between six months and 25 years. Apart from one Ira­nian and an Afghan, all of the de­fen­dants were Saudis. The source said that one of the two ac­quit­ted was a for­eigner.

All but one of the ac­cused had been de­tained since 2013. The re­gion’s lead­ing pow­ers are at odds over a range of is­sues in­clud­ing the wars in Syria and Ye­men. Saudi Ara­bia has also ex­pressed con­cern over an in­ter­na­tional agree­ment that lifted sanc­tions on Iran in ex­change for guar­an­tees it would not pur­sue a nu­clear weapons ca­pa­bil­ity. Riyadh fears the pact will lead to more Ira­nian “in­ter­fer­ence” in the re­gion.

With re­la­tions at a low, Ira­nian pil­grims in Septem­ber - for the first time in nearly three decades -0 did not at­tend the an­nual hajj in Saudi Ara­bia af­ter the two coun­tries failed to agree on se­cu­rity and lo­gis­tics. Nimr, the ex­e­cuted cleric whose case sent ten­sions soar­ing, was a driv­ing force be­hind protests that be­gan in 2011 among the Shi­ite mi­nor­ity, most of whom live in the king­dom’s east, which faces Iran across the Gulf. Nimr was con­victed of ter­ror­ism and ex­e­cuted in Jan­uary along­side 46 other peo­ple - mostly Sun­nis - found guilty of the same crime. — AFP

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