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."