Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat – A number of surprising revelations were made on day five of the trial of 18 defendants implicated in the Riyadh Compound bombings of 12 May 2003, which resulted in 35 deaths and more than 160 wounded. Asharq Al-Awsat received information that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and 9/11 “facilitator” Ramzi Bin al-Shibh – both of whom are being detained in Guantanamo Bay – were implicated in an Al Qaeda plot to target infrastructure belonging to Saudi Aramco, the state-owned national oil company of Saudi Arabia.
The Special Criminal Court in Riyadh played host to the trial of 18 defendants allegedly involved in the 2003 Riyadh Compound bombings which shook Saudi Arabia to the core. This heinous crime led to a huge nation-wide security crack-down against extremist elements that ultimately signaled the end of Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. None of the defendants were identified by name.
One of the 18 defendants on trial is accused of receiving direct orders from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Bin al-Shibhi to target Saudi petroleum infrastructure. This defendant allegedly received training in Afghanistan, where he pledged allegiance to former Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden. He allegedly received orders – from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and al-Shibhi – to return to Saudi Arabia and carry out attacks targeting Saudi Aramco.
Another of the 18 defendants is accused of having ties with Mohamed Atta, the Emir of the Hamburg cell that carried out the 9/11 attacks. In addition to this, the defendant is accused of having met with Rakan al-Saikhan, a senior Al Qaeda member suspected of being involved in the planning of the USS Cole bombing and the Limburg attack.
The Saudi General Prosecution accused another defendant of travelling to Iran, receiving training there, and taking part in a criminal conspiracy with a number of Al Qaeda figures based in the country.
The Riyadh Special Criminal Court also reviewed the evidence surrounding one of the most prominent defendants, accused of being a key figure in the Saudi Arabian branch of Al Qaeda. This defendant is accused of aiding and abetting terrorists like Abdul-Aziz al-Muqrni and Khalid al-Haj to illegally enter Saudi Arabia by car [from Yemen]. Al-Muqrin who was also known as Abu Hajr or Abu Hazim was no. 1 on Saudi Arabia’s second official list of most wanted terrorists [December 2003]. This defendant is also accused of forging a passport for Abdul Rahim al-Nahsiri, the alleged mastermind behind the USS Cole bombing, to enter Saudi Arabia.
This same defendant is also accused of smuggling 900 kg of RDX explosives, in addition to 100 detonators into Saudi Arabia for Al Qaeda use. In addition to this, he is believed to have smuggled in Surface-to-Air (SAM) rockets and rocket-propelled grenades into the country. The Saudi prosecution also revealed that this defendant was found to be in possession of two hand grenades, 36 kg of RDX, a number of firearms, and advanced telecommunication devices when arrested.
The General Saudi Prosecution is calling for the death penalty against this defendant.
A number of the defendants involved in this trial asked for the portion of the court proceedings dealing with the charges issued against them to take place in closed-court. The defendants are accused of attacking three residential compounds in Riyadh, which resulted in the deaths of 9 Americans, 7 Saudis, 4 Egyptians, and 15 others of different nationalities.
One of the 18 defendants – charged in open court – was accused of attempted murder, with prosecutors alleging that he attempted to use poison and a sniper rifle found in his position to kill.
At the end of the fifth day of the hearing, the charges against 67 other defendants were read out.
The Saudi General Prosecution charged defendant no. 20 with “treason”, accusing him of colluding with members of Al Qaeda to attack the King Khalid Air Base in Khamis Mushait, in addition to financing terrorism, arms smuggling, and aiding and abetting terrorist operations.
Whilst defendant no. 22, reportedly a former employee of the King Khalid Air Base, is accused of leaking classified information related to the base’s security, in addition to financing terrorism, and aiding and abetting terrorist operations.
As for defendant no. 32, he is accused of being a member of an active Al Qaeda terrorist cell that plotted to kill and abduct innocent people. He is also accused of adopting the [militant] takfirist ideology that is contrary to the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet, amongst other charges.
Defendant no. 44 was accused of plotting to bomb the Prince Sultan Air Base in al-Kharj, in addition to aiding and abetting Al Qaeda members, and attacking and firing upon Saudi security officers.