Home » Reports » Saudi: Fears heighten over the fate of 28 citizens who have been accused of espionage on behalf of Iran. They have been transferred to the terror court after almost three years since their initial detention.

Saudi: Fears heighten over the fate of 28 citizens who have been accused of espionage on behalf of Iran. They have been transferred to the terror court after almost three years since their initial detention.

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On 12th January 2016, the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia referred 28 detained individuals, most of whom areSaudi citizens that had been arrested during a series of arrests on 17th March 2013, to Riyadh’s Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) on espionage charges, more specifically, for spying for the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Many of the defendants held esteemed positions with both scientific and economic sectors within Saudi Arabia, including professors at UK universities, academics, civil servants, bankers and prominent theologians. These detainees came various regions and provinces within Saudi Arabia:

·         Ahsa Province: Dr. Ali Abdullah Haji, Hussein Kassim Al abood, Abbas Haji Hassan, Abbas Abdullah Abbad, Ahmed Ali Al-Nasser, Ali Hussein Almhina, Alaithan Abdul Jalil Ali, Ali Hussein Alashour, Mohammed Hussein Alashour.

·         Qatif Province: Ibrahim Ali Hamidi, Hussein Ali Hamidi, Sheikh Ali Ahmed Kabah, Alawi Moussa Hussein, Ali Khadr Al-marhoon, Hussein Saeed al-Ibrahim, Sheikh Mohammed Abdul-Ghani al-Attiyah.

·         Mecca Province: Sheikh Badr Al Hilal Taleb.

·         Dammam Province: Nasser Abdullah Alloam.

·         Al-Madina Province: Ahmed Abdulaziz Al-Feles, Sohail Abdul Aziz Al-mawled.

·         Jeddah: Salem Abdullah Al-Amri, Yousef Abdullah Al-Amri, Yassin Saleh Al Harbi, Taleb Muslim Harbi, Tahir Muslim-Harbi, Mohammed Hussein Alasa, Ahmed Ghrama al-Ghamdi, Samir Al Hillel Harbi .

During the months of March to May 2013, the Saudi authorities conducted a series of arrests that targeted citizens and residents, and announced that they are accused in connection with the issue of Iran and espionage in their favour.

The Interior Ministry announced that following their investigations, they found a direct link of this cell with Iranian intelligence, and that they received money in exchange for information and documents, without giving further detailed information. After more than two years and nine months, their cases have now been referred to the SCC.

In addition, the referral to the court coincides with the growing issuance of execution sentences within the Kingdom, and comes just ten days after the implementation of a mass execution at the start of 2016, which included the execution of prominent human rights activist Sheikh Nimr Baqir Al-Nimr and three youth activists.

This came despite reportswhich confirm that their activities were in accordance with their right to freedom of expression, which ultimately led to deep condemnation of the execution by the High Commissioner for human rights. These indicators raise concerns for the 28 individuals, as the SCC has been subject to heavy criticism regarding the lack of due process and conduct of the trials.

Thus these 28 accused individuals who face charges related to the security of the state (which are considered crimes of high magnitude), are likely to attract the death penalty. Although there trialshave not yet commenced, the charges already appear to haveapplied to them according to official statements. In addition, the description of these 28 individuals by the Saudi Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh showed no presumption of innocence, as the referred to them as the enemies with blind faith and healso said that they were planning to overthrow the country.

This is of course contrary to the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’.

The Saudi authorities renewed confirmation of the charges against them before commencement of the trials during a recent statement by the Foreign Ministry of Saudi Arabia on the cuttingof diplomatic relations with Iran, in which it was pointed out that one of the reasons for cessation of diplomatic ties is that the Iranian diplomatic missions linked was to spy cells in different states, and the statement included: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (2013).

European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR) asserts that the defendants were subjected to a series of violations since the start of their arbitrary arrest which occurred without any formal arrest warrants. These violations continued during the arbitrary detention and during the investigation stage, right up until their case was referred to the SCC and include:

·         Length detentions. Their cases were referred to court after more than two years and 9 months of detention in violation of the conditions of a fair trial, which affirms the right of the accused to be tried promptly before a judicial authority and the right to trial within a reasonable time. The arrest of this period is contrary to local laws, such as (Criminal Procedure – Rule 114 system) and (System crimes of terrorism and its financing – Article V), which raises the judicial conditions and reasons for extending the detention of suspects for long periods or delay the trial.

·         Some defendants were prevented from their right to communicate with the outside world for three months from the their arrest and some were prevented from communicating with their parents.

·         Torture. A number of detainees were tortured in many ways. They were prevented from sleeping and forced to stand for long hours, holding hands and the handcuffs, in addition to extinguishing cigarettes with their bodies, they received various threats, in violation of the Convention against Torture and other cruel treatment (CAT).

·         Extracting confessions on the basis of torture from detainees is a violation of the Convention against Torture and other cruel treatment, which emphasizes that each State Party shall not be invoked any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture as evidence in any proceedings.

Based on a flawed and defective justice system that is plaguing Saudi Arabia, the methods employed by the courts is shrouded in mystery and secrecy. Especially bearing in mind that during the past seventeen years, the Saudi courts have considered six cases related to charges of espionage, and each case received a varied sentence, which ranged between executions, imprisonment or a fine.
ESOHR calls forthe immediate and unconditional release of the accused, and emphasizes their right to a trial which ensuresthe due process, and provide them with their rights to adequate legal representation and access to legal counsel.

ESOHR also calls upon the Saudi authorities to ensureopen and transparent trials, and to re-investigate, where instances of torture occur, to ensure that trials are not based on confessions which have been extracted under torture and duress.

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