Saudi Arabia sets trial for 32 accused of spying for Iran

Published February 22nd, 2016 - 09:50 GMT
The trial accusing 32 of spying for Iran and inciting sectarian strife, may stoke already tense relations between Tehran and Riyadh. (File photo)
The trial accusing 32 of spying for Iran and inciting sectarian strife, may stoke already tense relations between Tehran and Riyadh. (File photo)

Saudi Arabia has placed 32 people on trial accused of spying for Iran, according to reports from local news and Reuters on Monday. 

The 32 accused were arrested in 2013 and include an Iranian and an Afghan national, while the rest are Saudis. One of the few trials for Saudis accused of espionage, the trial may stoke already tense relations with Iran.

Iranian interference in the domestic affairs of countries across the Arab world have helped aggravate wars and political upheavals in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Bahrain.

Tensions between the two countries further escalated when Riyadh executed a prominent Shia cleric and then severed ties with Tehran after the Saudi embassy was attacked by an angry mob there.

The charges against the 32 accused were presented on Sunday at the Specialized Criminal Court, which tries security offenses, the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya channel reported. 

Among the charges included are establishing a spy ring with members of Iranian intelligence, passing sensitive military information, seeking to sabotage Saudi's economic interests, and inciting sectarian strife.

The charges also included supporting protests in the eastern Qatif region, recruiting others for espionage, emailing encrypted reports to Iranian intelligence, and committing high treason against the Saudi king.

The Saudis arrested in 2013 included an elderly university professor, a doctor, a banker, and two clerics. Most hailed from al-Ahsa, a religiously mixed region home to around half the Shia population in Saudi.

Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of instigating confrontations between the Shia population in Qatif against the Sunni royal family in Riyadh.


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