Saudi Arabia convicts 18 of involvement in al Qaeda

Today the Riyadh Criminal Court in Saudi Arabia convicted 18 defendants of involvement in al Qaeda and handed down prison sentences that ranged from 27 years to two months. These latest developments are the latest in a series of recent convictions by the Riyadh Criminal Court of al Qaeda militants arrested in the Kingdom.

The defendant sentenced for the longest prison term was accused of working closely with Hayla Quseir, also known as Umm al Ribab, who has been described as “the most dangerous woman in al Qaeda.” She is said to have been involved in recruiting Saudi women to al Qaeda as well as financing the terrorist organization and laundering money on its behalf. She was apparently so significant to the organization that upon her arrest by Saudi authorities in 2010, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninusla’s deputy emir, Sa’id al Shihri, promised to take revenge on the Saudi regime for her detention.

The defendant accused of working with Hayla Quseir is said to have helped her evade justice by forging travel documents for her and her children, traveling with her from Riyadh to Jazan, and attempting to illegally smuggle her into Yemen with the goal of taking her to Iraq via Syria, at the order of al Qaeda leaders.

He is also accused of meeting with an al Qaeda terrorist cell leader who was actively planning terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia. In addition, the defendant is said to have hosted an al Qaeda bomb expert at his home for training in the use of remotely detonated explosives.

The Riyadh court’s sentence stated further that he had been preparing to smuggle missiles from Yemen to Saudi Arabia and was involved in financing terrorism and terrorism operations in the Kingdom. He was sentenced to 27 years in prison and is prohibited from traveling outside Saudi Arabia for 20 years following his release.

The remaining defendants were convicted of with crimes such as possession of weapons and ammunition intended for use in terrorist operations, money laundering for al Qaeda, and cybercrimes relating to involvement in the terrorist organization.

Today’s convictions come on the heels of the death sentence handed down to al Qaeda “chief strategist” Faris al Zahrani yesterday. Zahrani was arrested by Saudi authorities in 2004 near the Yemeni border and is believed to have orchestrated the wave of al Qaeda terrorist attacks that roiled the Kingdom between 2003 and 2006. Fifteen codefendants in his trial were sentenced to prison terms of up to 20 years on charges of weapons possession, participation in terrorist activities, and forging official documents.

In early March, the Riyadh Criminal Court sentenced five al Qaeda members to death for participation in the May 2003 attacks on residential compounds in Riyadh that killed 26 people, including eight Americans, and injured nearly 200.

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