RIYADH , Asharq Al-Awsat – A Saudi court began formal legal proceedings Monday against around 70 militant suspects ahead of the first trials of al Qaeda sympathizers who waged a campaign of violence in kingdom.
Dr. Abdullah Al Sheikh, the Saudi Arabian Justice Minister affirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that these security trials will be held ‘ under the laws of the judiciary, and in accordance with the decrees of Islamic Shariaa law, and there will be no exception’.
Reliable sources have informed Asharq Al-Awsat that a joint-media committee comprised of members from the Interior Minister and the Ministry of Justice will enforce a media blackout of the case to protect classified information regarding Al Qaeda, which implies that the court case will take place behind closed doors.
The Saudi Arabian Minister of Justice told Asharq Al-Awsat that ‘The goals of this court are the same as any court, only it specializes in who it prosecutes, those accused of security crimes’. He confirmed that the security courts which will prosecute those accused of crimes relating to terrorism will be no different than any other branch of the judiciary and so defendants will have lawyers to defend them.
Security was tight around Riyadh’s general court where 10 judges began viewing the case against the men prepared by prosecutors. It was not clear when the trial would begin.
“All the people involved are implementers, inciters and supporters,” al-Riyadh newspaper said, adding they may include men who fought in Afghanistan, Iraq and militants extradited to Saudi Arabia recently from other countries.
Iraq handed over eight Saudi prisoners last month.
“Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” began a campaign to destabilize the Saudi government in 2003 with two suicide bomb attacks on foreign housing compounds in Riyadh. Around 264 people died in the violence.
Led by Saudis who took part in militant activities in Afghanistan and other hotspots, the violence was brought to halt by Saudi security forces in cooperation with foreign experts in a counter-insurgency campaign that won plaudits in the West.
The last major attack was a failed attempt to storm the world’s largest oil processing plant at Abqaiq in February 2006.
The authorities have arrested hundreds over the last year on suspicion of trying to revive militant cells.