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Saudi Arabia: Clandestine group with Al Qaeda ties planned to topple government | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat – Asharq Al-Awsat has obtained information that a “clandestine group” made up of a number of academics sought – in coordination with Al Qaeda – to seize power in Saudi Arabia. This group is also accused of having links to a foreign intelligence agency, in addition to supporting Al Qaeda operations carried out in Saudi Arabia since the Riyadh Compound bombings on 12 May, 2003.

The Saudi Arabian General-Prosecutor revealed that this “clandestine group” was made up of 16 individuals, who are facing a total of 75 charges.

A well-informed source told Asharq Al-Awsat that the group provided Al Qaeda with funding and support in order to spread chaos throughout Saudi Arabia, with the objective of seizing power.

A second source who has viewed the case against the 16 defendants, including a 1000-page affidavit, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the main figure within the clandestine group met with a number of senior Al Qaeda members in Iraq [AQI] figures at a rest-stop on the outskirts of the city of Jeddah. These Al Qaeda members had entered Saudi Arabia during the hajj period, taking advantage of the huge influx of religious pilgrims into the country to enter without being discovered by the security apparatus. This meeting was also attended by a group of Saudi youth who were encouraged to travel and fight in Iraq; at least 4 of the youth who subsequently traveled to Iraq to fight were killed.

The Special Criminal Court, which specializes in dealing with terrorism and national security cases, held its 25th session in the case of the “clandestine group.” The Saudi judiciary has reportedly been trying this case over the past year.

According to the source, the charges leveled at the 16 defendants include “establishing a secret group that aims to spread chaos and seize power by utilizing foreign parties and taking advantage of acts of terrorism, cooperating with foreign intelligence agencies, funding terrorism, and aiding and abetting terrorists.” The source also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “the defendants are also accused of establishing a charity organization named the “generation project” [mashro’a al-jeel] which gathered donations under the guise of charity work but funneled these funds to suspicious parties.”

According to Saudi Justice Ministry spokesman Dr. Abdullah al-Saadan, 3 of the 16 defendants appeared before the Special Criminal Court in Jeddah on Tuesday to respond to the charges and evidence against them.

Dr. al-Saadan revealed that “this case is based on monitoring two groups: the first group was involved in illegal activities including illegal collection of charitable donations which were then channeled to suspicious parties. These suspicious parties then used this money to mislead Saudi citizens and convince them to travel to…fight in dangerous regions. One of this group also issued a fatwa calling on Saudi youth to travel and fight in regions of conflict.”

As for the other group, Dr. al-Saadan revealed that its members “carried out operations to destabilize Saudi Arabia and propagate hostility against the state.” He added that “we noticed that these two groups were meeting with one another frequently and in secret…therefore they were arrested in February 2007 at a rest-stop in the Jeddah region.”

Defendant No. 1 is the leader of the clandestine group, he is a well-known academic, and the Saudi General Prosecution has leveled a number of serious charges against him. According to information obtained by Asharq Al-Awsat, this defendant is accused of advocating and inciting Saudi Arabian youth to travel to fight abroad, coordinating with foreign intelligence agencies, illegally taking part in foreign conflicts, following and promoting Al Qaeda ideology, being a member of Al Qaeda, communicating and coordinating with Al Qaeda [in the Arabian Peninsula] leader Abdulaziz al-Muqrin, coordinating with AQI, funding terrorism and terrorist activities, aiding and abetting Al Qaeda members, establishing a charitable group to illegally fund terrorism, and most seriously of all, establishing a clandestine organization with the aim of seizing power, amongst other charges.

As for the other 15 defendants, they are accused of a range of charges from funding terrorism and aiding and abetting terrorists, to establishing a clandestine organization with the aim of seizing power. It is clear, from the charges leveled against the 15 defendants, that only some of the group were active fighters who had fought abroad and took part in – or at least aided and abetted – terrorist activities, whilst others were only involved in financing terrorist activities and issuing fatwas and calling for others to take part in terrorist activities.

Last year, Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest exporter of oil, arrested some 113 suspected militants with ties to Al Qaeda, who were allegedly planning to attack oil facilities. Riyadh has strongly sought to combat terrorism since the 12 May, 2003 Riyadh Compound bombings, which shocked the country. Saudi Arabia instituted the “Munasaha” rehabilitation program to counter Al Qaeda ideology, in addition to launching a strong security campaign against Al Qaeda elements in the country. Saudi Arabia’s anti-terrorist campaign was successful, with most observers agreeing that Al Qaeda has largely been eradicated from the country, with Al Qaeda and other Islamist extremist elements fleeing the country and setting up base in Yemen and elsewhere.