The Specialized Criminal Court on State Security and Terrorism in Riyadh charged eight defendants today with providing weaponry and financial funding to al Qaeda in support of terrorist operations both inside and outside the kingdom. The eight defendants were sentenced to jail terms ranging from three to six years and barred from traveling outside the kingdom for similar periods of time thereafter.
The detailed charges handed down by the court in Riyadh include significant information about al Qaeda’s terrorist network and intentions. Most notably, they indicate that al Qaeda seeks to commit acts of sabotage inside Saudi Arabia, specifically targeting large oil refineries in the eastern province of al Sharqiya. Additionally, al Qaeda has been trying to attract militants from Cuba, and to invest financially in a media agency in Egypt to spread jihadist news.
One of the defendants convicted today was accused of storing large quantities of machine guns and ammunition for al Qaeda as well as purchasing radio communication devices to be used in jihadist activity. He was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison and barred from travel for an additional five.
Another defendant was charged with receiving electronic circuitry and accessories used in the remote detonation of explosives. He reportedly kept the electronics in house at first, and then later buried them for safekeeping, storing the coordinates of the burial location on his mobile phone. He was also accused of covering up an invitation to join a weapons training course led by Yousef al Ayeri, a Saudi member of al Qaeda and the first leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), who was killed in a gun battle with Saudi forces in Ha’el province in 2003. The defendant was sentenced to a prison term of six years and is barred from travel “for a similar amount of time.”
A serious indication of al Qaeda’s international connections emerged in the charges against a defendant who set up an office in China as part of his implementation of an al Qaeda project to manufacture laser technology weaponry. The defendant reportedly received $100,000 to fund the project and was accused of “supporting and financing terrorism” as well as being in possession of a large cache of weapons and ammunition. He was sentenced to a prison term of four years and is barred from travel “for a similar amount of time.”
Other defendants were charged with crimes such as possession of weaponry and concealing knowledge that al Qaeda was intending to carry out terrorist attacks inside Saudi Arabia, specifically targeting oil refineries in al Sharqiya. Additionally, one defendant was allegedly aware of an al Qaeda plan to bring two militants over from Cuba, and confessed that one of the Cubans went to Yemen to join AQAP and that the other was “still searching for a passport.” Another defendant was accused of scouting out eastern Riyadh for a suitable location to establish a jihadist training camp.
Highlighting al Qaeda’s financial and military ties to other terrorist groups in the Middle East, a defendant was accused of being in close contact with a member of Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s terrorist faction in Iraq. The Iraqi militant requested that the Saudi transfer 150,000 euros to a media agency in Egypt interested in spreading jihadi news. Additionally, the same defendant transferred 350,000 rials to the al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq on behalf of one of his Saudi comrades.