A Saudi court Wednesday sentenced 13 people to up to 14 years in prison for backing “terrorist organisations”, training with Al-Qaeda and luring young people to fight abroad, media reported.
The ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom recently toughened measures against Islamist groups, listing Al-Qaeda-linked organisations fighting in Syria among terrorist movements.
The 13 — nine Saudis, two Jordanians, an Egyptian and one Syrian — were convicted of providing support to people wanted for security reasons, and “supporting terrorism, as well as terrorist acts and organisations”, the official SPA news agency said.
Some defendants were charged with undergoing weapons training at “Al-Qaeda bases”, SPA said.
Charges also included “coordinating to arrange the travel of misled youths to areas of trouble and fighting”, the agency said, without elaborating.
One defendant received a 14-year jail sentence, while the remainder were jailed for between three and nine years.
The interior ministry this month published a list of “terror” groups, including Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Nusra Front which is Al-Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, another jihadist group fighting in Syria and Iraq.
It also includes the little-known Saudi Hezbollah Shiite militant group, as well as Shiite Huthi rebels fighting in neighbouring Yemen.
The ministry said it will prosecute those who back such groups “financially or morally”, or seek to promote them in the media and on social networks.
It also forbids “participation in, calling for, or incitement to fighting in conflict zones in other countries” as well as calling for demonstrations or taking part in them.
After a wave of deadly Al-Qaeda attacks in the kingdom between 2003 and 2006, Saudi authorities cracked down on the local branch of the group founded by the late Osama bin Laden, himself Saudi-born.