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Thursday, January 31, 2008       Free Headline Alerts

Five new Saudi prisons aim to rehabilitate
Al Qaida inmates

ABU DHABI — Saudi Arabia has been constructing modern high-security prisons for Al Qaida inmates.

Security sources said the Saudi Interior Ministry has overseen the construction of five prisons to house thousands of Al Qaida-aligned inmates. The sources said the prisons would be designed to encourage the rehabilitation of Al Qaida insurgents, regarded as high-security risks.

The prisons were said to be nearly complete and the first facilities could begin operations in 2008, Middle East Newsline reported. The sources said the prisons, each meant to accommodate 1,200 inmates, were built in Abha, Dammam, Jedda, Qassim and Riyad.

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The new prisons would enable Saudi authorities to segregate Al Qaida members from the rest of the inmate population. The sources said Al Qaida inmates who agree to a dialogue with authorities would be provided with separate and enhanced facilities.

The sources said the new prisons, with no more than two to a cell, would significantly reduce overcrowding. In other Saudi prisons, up to 30 inmates occupy a single group cell.

In 2004, the Interior Ministry began a program to rehabilitate Al Qaida prisoners through dialogue and Islamic indoctrination. Clerics would debate Al Qaida defendants on whether the Koran approves suicide bombings and attacks on Muslims.

At Hair prison, 40 kilometers south of Riyad, inmates have been divided into security and criminal offenders. The security wing, which contains several Al Qaida commanders, has been bolstered with perimeter walls and fences, buried seismic cables and microwave detection systems.

A camera has been installed in every cell, with video streamed to a command and control center. The cell contains an intercom, toilet, shower, sink, television and windows as part of an effort to prevent inmates from communicating with each other. Food is delivered to each cell.

The Al Qaida wings contain a lecture hall and rooms for conjugal visits for married prisoners.

"While Saudi officials readily admit that building new prisons is never a good sign, the construction of facilities such as that at Al Hair demonstrates a commitment to continue pursuing rehabilitation and engagement strategies in dealing with takfiri militants," Christopher Boucek, a lecturer at Princeton University who visited Saudi Arabia, said. "The continued institutionalization of the counseling program reveals Riyad's determination to win the war of ideas."

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