Last updated: 29 October, 2011

Saudi court jails “Al-Qaeda lady” for 15 years

A Saudi court on Saturday jailed for 15 years a Saudi woman known as “Al-Qaeda lady” for being the first woman in the kingdom tried for involvement in violence by the jihadist network, state media said.

“A Saudi woman was sentenced to 15 years in jail starting on the date of her arrest, followed by 15 years of a ban on travelling after her release,” SPA state news agency reported.

The trial of the unnamed woman began on July 31.

The list of charges over which the specialised criminal court convicted her included “sheltering people wanted for security related matters and inciting terror acts in the kingdom,” SPA said.

She was also condemned for “possessing two pistols” that she gave to militants and “financing terrorism and terror acts through collecting more than one million riyals ($267,000) and sending the money to Al-Qaeda organisation.”

In August, Okaz daily identified the woman only as the “Al-Qaeda lady,” saying she was 45 years old and was arrested last year in Buraidah, Qassim’s provincial capital.

In June 2010, Saeed al-Shihri, a prominent Saudi leader of Al-Qaeda’s franchise in Yemen, urged supporters in Saudi Arabia to kidnap Christians and Saudi princes to press for the release of a female militant nabbed north of Riyadh whom he identified as Heila al-Qsayer.

At her family’s request, the trial is taking place in private and without media presence.

The woman had denied the charges, claiming she had been held captive by two men to whom she had been married in the past and who were members of Al-Qaeda.

One of them is in prison over connections to Al-Qaeda, while the second was killed by security forces a few years ago in Riyadh, according to several sources.

The verdict can be appealed within 30 days.

Meanwhile, five Saudi men and two Egyptians went on trial Saturday over charges including supporting Al-Qaeda and “incitement” against authorities, according to SPA.

Eighty-five suspects went on trial in a special Saudi security court in June in connection with deadly attacks in the kingdom.

The defendants face charges of belonging to Al-Qaeda, of taking part in attacks on public buildings and residential compounds, and of smuggling and possession of weapons.

In April, a judicial source said 5,080 terrorist suspects either faced trial or had already been tried before the special court which has come in for criticism from lawyers.

Saudi Arabia witnessed a wave of deadly attacks by Al-Qaeda between 2003 and 2006, which prompted authorities to launch a security force crackdown on the local branch of the jihadist network founded by Saudi-born Osama bin Laden.

Al-Qaeda remains very active in neighbouring Yemen, where the Saudi and Yemeni franchises of Al-Qaeda joined forces under the banner of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.