Rabat - 15 members of Saudi Arabia’s Shia minority population have been sentenced to death after being charged with espionage on behalf of Iran.
Rabat – 15 members of Saudi Arabia’s Shia minority population have been sentenced to death after being charged with espionage on behalf of Iran.
The specialized criminal court in Riyadh sentenced 15 others to prison, also on charges of spying for Iran. According to The Guardian, “The suspects, comprising 30 Saudi Shia Muslims, one Iranian and an Afghan, were detained in 2013 on charges of spying for Iran and went on trial in February.” The rulings are still subject to appeal and death sentences must first be sent to the King for ratification.
Details of the activities of the alleged spies included leaking sensitive information to Iran. BBC stated that, “Prosecutors accused them of treason, setting up a spy ring in collaboration with Iranian intelligence, and passing about sensitive data on military zones”. A large number of the defendants were Saudi military, while several of the defendants had no political affiliation. Defendants included a university professor, two clerics and a pediatrician. Most of the defendants were from the Eastern Province, “home to the majority of Saudi Arabia’s Shia,” which make up 10 to 15% of the country’s total population.
This announcement comes at a time of heightened political tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran. In January, Saudi Arabia broke diplomatic ties after, “The storming of its embassy in Tehran by protesters angered by the execution of the prominent Saudi Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, and three other Shia,” (BBC). Saudi Arabia and Iran have historically shared rocky relations due to extensive ideological differences. The announcement of the prosecutions of Saudi citizens on charges of spying for Iran is the first in recent memory.