Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat – Saudi Arabia yesterday revealed new information about the progress of terror trials within the kingdom, with a group of 991 defendants accused of having ties to the Al Qaeda organization and attempting to circumvent the security of the state. Riyadh revealed that Islamic Shariaa punishments would be issued against some of those on trial with regards to possession or distribution of drugs. At the same time, it was also revealed that the Saudi Arabian judiciary had cleared 27 defendants, although there is talk about the possibility of the General Prosecution appealing this verdict.
Riyadh has referred 991 individuals accused on charges of having ties to the Al Qaeda organizations and conspiracy to breach national security, to the judiciary. The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Justice announced that the Special Criminal Court has tried 442 different terrorism-related cases involving 765 detainees, which represents around 77 percent of the total group who are on trail for terrorism-related charges.
Ministry of Justice spokesman Dr. Abdullah al-Sadan confirmed that the Special Criminal Court is continuing to try the remaining terrorist-related cases. During a press conference held yesterday, al-Sadan revealed that the Special Criminal Court had issued preliminary rulings in 442 cases, 325 of which had been appealed.
The Court of Appeals overturned 43 rulings issued against those accused of involvement in Al Qaeda activity, whilst it rejected 149 appeals, with the remaining cases still on the docket.
Dr. Abdullah al-Sadan also confirmed that “there are no significant differences of opinion between the Special Criminal Court and the Court of Appeals.” He also clarified that the Court of Appeals “is keen to confirm [cases] through incriminating evidence.”
Among the cases tried by the Saudi Arabian Special Criminal Court include charges of affiliation to the Al Qaeda organization, as well as smuggling and possession of illegal goods and substances, including arms and drugs.
In answer to a question put to him by Asharq Al-Awsat about the type of banned substances being smuggled, Ministry of Justice spokesman Dr. al-Sadan confirmed that “this includes [defendants] who smuggled and distributed drugs.”
The charges issued against the 991 defendants include: affiliation to the Al Qaeda organization; involvement in terrorist activity; financing terrorism; aiding and abetting known terrorists; forming terrorist cells; inciting violence; communicating and coordinating with third parties to breach national security; arms trafficking; smuggling and possession of illegal substances.
Dr. al-Sadan also revealed that the ages of those being tried by the Special Criminal Court range from 18 to 70, although he clarified that the majority of the defendants are under the age of 30. Dr. al-Sadan also revealed that this list includes non-Saudi nationals, although he denied that any women were being prosecuted.
According to the report issued by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Justice, the charges being issued by the Special Criminal Court against the 991 defendants include “circumventing the authority of the ruler” and this charge includes “traveling or calling on people to travel to troubled regions under the pretext of fighting or jihad, or financing this” as well as “promoting the takfirist ideology that is against the Quran and the Sunnah.” The Ministry of Justice report also cited charges that include “affiliation to [ideologically] deviant groups [Al Qaeda], carrying out operations that serve their objectives, communication with or aiding and abetting members of such groups or harboring them from the authorities”, “financing terrorism” which includes “collecting, donating, or transferring funds used for terrorism, as well as laundering money [for this purpose]”, and “providing support for external organizations to breach national security, or financing, supporting, or participating in any activity that undermines national security.”
In the detailed statement issued by the Ministry of Justice, it revealed that “the trials were conducted according to the criminal procedure system; some parties appealed against the judgment issued against them, and these care were transferred to the Court of Appeals.” The statement added “some of the cases were overturned [by the court of appeals] others were sent back for review, whilst other appeals were rejected.”
The report added “the court looked at each case according to the charges issued against the defendant…and it issued rulings in light of the evidence presented in this regard and after listening to the defendants’ defense.”
The Ministry of Justice statement also revealed that “the majority of the defendants decided to defend themselves, whilst some decided to hire lawyers to present their defense. The court provided each defendant with a copy of the list of charges against them, and the evidence being relied upon by the prosecution.” The statement also revealed that the defendants were allowed to respond in writing to the charges issued against them, although “some of the defendants pleaded guilty to the charges issued against them and expressed remorse and repentance [for their actions].”
As for the sentences issued against those convicted of terrorism-related charges, the Ministry of Justice statement revealed that these ranged from “prison sentences of different lengths of time, as well as [Islamic Shariaa] punishment for those found guilty of alcohol or drug abuse, and restrictions being placed upon the freedom of some defendants who served their prison sentences such as prevention of foreign travel or house arrest.”