Saudi Arabia firmly and calmly issued its judicial verdict against 330 defendants implicated in 179 security cases involving the Al Qaeda organization. The [guilty] verdicts were issued by a specialist court that was established specifically to handle this type of case. The charges brought against the defendants included; affiliation to terrorist organization, involvement in terrorist activities, communicating, coordinating and collaborating with external forces seeking to conspire against national security, supporting and financing terrorist activities, as well as disobeying a legal guardian, and travelling to places of unrest for the purposes of taking up arms. The sentences issued varied noticeably and included prison sentences, suspended prison sentences, financial penalties, travel restrictions and house arrest.
These historic rulings herald a new chapter in Saudi Arabia’s successful approach to dealing with one of the greatest security threats that the country has ever faced. Today the important success achieved by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of the Interior in the war on terror is no longer a secret. This is a success that has garnered praise from many security observers and officials around the world. The strategy adopted by the Saudi Ministry of Interior is an unprecedented one and one that has been implemented simultaneously on a number of levels.
On one level, there is the deterrent of security confrontation, as well as the highly effective pre-emptive strikes that have helped to uncover terrorist cells and cut-off any communication between them thereby weakening their chances of effectively implementing their plans. On another level, the Ministry of Interior also focused upon tracking down financial leads of sources that provide funding to these terrorist cells. This strategy led to several names and institutions being uncovered that were being used as a front to finance these diabolic terrorist organizations.
In addition to this, there is also the Munasaha rehabilitation program that attempts to win over and rehabilitate junior cadres who were lured into joining terrorist organizations. A group of religious specialists affiliated to the Munasaha program rehabilitate the ideology and beliefs of these cadres. According to the testimony of several independent sources, this program has proven to be a resounding success. And so with the issuance of the verdicts mentioned above, the noose is beginning to tighten, and success is within sight, but this task is not over yet.
I received a telephone call from a US correspondent working for a well-known newspaper; she asked me “Why is the Saudi government afraid of issuing verdicts on suspects in terrorism cases?” I answered “Why do you assume that this is due to fear? Saudi Arabia is dealing with this difficult issue wisely, deliberately working to gather evidence against the smaller fish that will lead catching bigger fish.”
Since the events of 9/11 the finger of accusation has been pointed at Saudi Arabia, and it has borne the brunt of this, facing an endless stream of lies and allegations. However at the same time as this, Saudi Arabia was also carrying out an essential and historic program in confronting the terrorist ideology, whether by addressing the extremist sermons that are given in certain mosques, or by promoting the concept of dialogue with others, and openness to the world, in what represents the world’s largest education program of its kind. Saudi Arabia also introduced a set of ideas and initiatives to positively affect the cultural climate in the country and reduce the spread of extremist ideology.
Yes, there is still a long road ahead in our fight against terrorism, but the recent verdicts are an important step in the right direction and ensure the rule of law and the punishment of offenders.