RIYADH (AFP) – Baghdad has sent back to Saudi Arabia eight of its citizens jailed in Iraq ahead of a new extradition treaty between the two countries, a spokesman for the Saudi interior ministry said on Sunday.
The official SPA news agency quoted the spokesman as saying that under the accord, the Saudi authorities were preparing to send back 16 Iraqis jailed in the kingdom.
It called the exchange of convicts part of “common efforts by the Saudi kingdom and brotherly Iraq to consolidate cooperation in security matters ahead of an extradition treaty” being discussed by the two countries.
The new treaty stipulates “the exchange of convicted prisoners… so that they serve the rest of their sentences close to their families,” SPA on September 10 quoted the interior ministry spokesman as saying.
At the time he did not elaborate on how many Saudis were being held in Iraq, where Saudis are among foreign fighters who have joined Sunni Arab insurgents battling Iraqi forces and their US-led backers.
Iraqi national security adviser Muwaffak al-Rubaie said in March that Baghdad had repatriated six Saudis, one of whom was wanted by security authorities in Saudi Arabia, which has been battling suspected Al-Qaeda militants for more than five years.
Rubaie said the Baghdad government was holding fewer than 100 Saudis, who had all been tried and convicted, while US-led forces were holding fewer than 50.
Saudi Arabia, citing the lack of security in Iraq, has yet to reopen its embassy in Baghdad more than four years after the neighbours restored diplomatic relations in July 2004.
Iraq reopened its embassy in Saudi Arabia in February 2007 after it had been closed in December 1990 on the eve of the 1991 Gulf War when ties were severed by the regime of executed dictator Saddam Hussein.