by WorldTribune Staff, December 7, 2016
A Saudi court on Dec. 6 sentenced 15 Shi’ites to death for spying for Iran, Saudi state media reported.
The Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh sentenced 15 other defendants to prison terms ranging from six months to 25 years, and acquitted two others, according to the Arabic-language al-Riyadh newspaper.
The charges included supporting protests in the Shi’ite-majority region of Qatif in Eastern Province, recruiting others for espionage, sending encrypted reports to Iranian intelligence via email and committing high treason against the king.
According to the charges, most suspects had traveled to Iran and Lebanon where they were trained in espionage techniques including drafting coded messages. Some of the suspects had hacked computers to obtain sensitive information related to the internal and external security and the national economy of Saudi Arabia.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi denied that any Iranian spying had occurred in Saudi Arabia. “Such accusations are baseless and serve political motives,” he was quoted as saying by the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
The sentences come at a time of increasing tension between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran.
In January, Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shi’ite cleric convicted of involvement in the killing of policemen, prompting protesters to storm the Saudi Embassy in Teheran. Riyadh then broke off diplomatic relations.
Saudi Arabia has blamed unrest among Shi’ites in Qatif on Iran. The Islamic Republic denies any involvement.