Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Saudi trial of terrorist cell accused of targeting US forces continues | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat – A panel of three judges heading a special summary court in Saudi Arabia began hearing the case against a 41-member terrorist cell that is accused of planning to attack US forces in the Gulf. During this hearing, which began on Saturday and carried on throughout the week, the Saudi General Prosecution accused the terrorist cell of planning to target the “Al Udeid Air Base” and the US “As Saliyah Army Base” in Qatar, as well as US forces in Kuwait. It was also revealed that this terrorist cell possessed detailed maps of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria, and the 41 defendants are accused of planning terrorist attacks in these countries.

The alleged leader of this terrorist cell listened to the charges against him on the first day of the trial. He was accused of a number of serious charges, including “heading a terrorist cell in Saudi Arabia to carry out terrorist operations against US forces in Qatar, recruiting individuals and receiving the oath of allegiance as the leader of the cell in Saudi Arabia” as well as “preparing to participate in a terrorist operation in the State of Kuwait and coordinating to carry out this terrorist operation”, “attempting to smuggle weapons and combat equipment…to carry out a terrorist operation in a fraternal country”, and “support and financing terrorism and terrorist operations.” Defendant No. 1 was also accused of seeking to recruit somebody able to “booby-trap cars” and therefore it is likely that his terrorist cell was seeking to carry out a car-bomb attack. He was also accused of “appearing in a video tape…inciting violence and reading his will in order to urge the [Saudi] youth to travel to Iraq to fight.”

According to the general prosecution, one of the accused in the 41-member cell possessed detailed maps of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria, and he refused to elaborate why he possessed such detailed maps.

The Saudi Special Criminal Court in Jeddah, which specializes in dealing with terrorism and national security cases, held the fourth session of the trial of the 41-member terrorist cell on Tuesday. This cell is accused of planning to target military bases in Qatar, US forces in Kuwait, in addition to funding terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq, and recruiting for Al Qaeda in Iraq. Members of the cell are also accused of smuggling arms, funds, and fighters from Saudi Arabia into Iraq.

The 41 defendants, who are all in their 20s, include 38 Saudi citizens, one Qatari, one Yemeni, and an Afghani.

10 of the defendants appeared before the court on Tuesday, which means that 38 of the 41 defendants have now been informed of the charges that they are facing, whilst the remaining 3 defendants are expected to hear the charges that they are facing at a future date. This was the fourth batch of defendants to be informed of the charges against them, and they faced the least charges – at least in terms of numbers – from the Saudi General Prosecution, with only 26 charges being issued against them. The Prosecution also did not ask for the death penalty against these 10 defendants.

However this does not diminish the seriousness of the charges that the fourth batch of defendants are facing, which includes attacking prison guards, and attempting to incite internal chaos and strife [in Saudi Arabia].

One of the ten defendants was accused of a number of weapons charges, including illegally possessing 5 machine guns and 400 rounds of ammunition. Whilst another defendant was accused of possessing 3 motorcycles, assorted communication devices, and a GPS device, that were used to illegally enter Iraq.

Whilst the Saudi General Prosecution issued a number of charges against a third defendant, including illegally possessing a machine gun (AK-47) and ammunition, as well as possessing 4 detailed maps of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria, a satellite phone, and a GPS device suspected to be used in planning terrorist attacks. The defendant was also found to be in possession of a CD containing instructions videos on how to carry out terrorist attacks, as well as other videos inciting violence published by the banned “Voice of Jihad” online journal that was issued by the Saudi Arabian branch of Al Qaeda between 2004 and 2007.

The fourth defendant of the 10 defendants who appeared in court on Tuesday was accused of “threatening and assaulting the prison director and his staff, threatening to burn down the prison, and leading a prison gang that is causing chaos and riots inside the prison, in addition to destroying prison property.”

Whilst another of the 10 defendants was accused of “illegally entering Iraq to take part in the fighting there, helping others to illegally enter Iraq… using fake documents, purchasing weapons in Iraq, and participating in financing and support terrorist operations.”

This same defendant was also accused of “threatening and assaulting the prison director and another prison officer after he was caught trying to escape from prison via the visitors lounge, as well as verbally insulting and refusing to follow the instructions of prison guards.” He was also accused of “threatening to burn down the prison” in addition to “communicating with suspected terrorism inside and outside of Saudi Arabia via a mobile phone whilst in detention…and seeking to obtain a false passport to travel to Iraq after his release from prison.”

In comparison, the first batch of 9 defendants, who were informed of the charges that they are facing on Saturday, faced a total of approximately 58 charges. The first 9 defendants of the 41- member cell faced charges including “support and financing terrorism and terrorism operations” and “preparing for and planning to participate in terrorism attacks” and “recruiting for Al Qaeda.”

The Saudi General Prosecution called for death sentences for 5 of the 9 defendants, and long prison terms for the others. The presiding judge has asked the 41 defendants to submit their written plea to the charges against them before the forthcoming Hajj [4 November 2011].