A Saudi court on Tuesday sentenced 15 people to death and several others to prison for spying for Iran. This could increase the tension between the two West Asian powers.
A Riyadh criminal court gave its verdict to the 32 people including 30 Saudi Shi’ite Muslims, one Iranian and one Afghan. The court sentenced imprisonment to15 people ranging from six months to 25 years and acquitted two of them.
The court didn’t public their names. Amnesty International criticised the ruling said the proceedings as “a travesty of justice and a serious violation of human rights”.
In February, Saudi state media reported the accused were charged with establishing a spy ring in collaboration with Iranian intelligence agency. The spies provided secret information on the Saudi military in an intention to undermine Saudi economic interests, incite sectarian strike and sabotage community cohesion. The media stated that many of the 32 accused were former employees of the Saudi defence and interior ministries.
The charges included supporting protests in the Shi’ite majority region of Qatif in Eastern province, sending encrypted reports to Iranian intelligence via email, recruiting others for spying and committing high treason against the king.
Most of the accused were from al-Ahsa, a mixed Shi’ite and Sunni region where the half of the members of the minority of the Shi’ite community live.
Iran denied the charge
But Iran denied all the charges over Iranian spying on Saudi Arabia. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bahram Qasemi said the espionage as “baseless” and “serve political motives”.
He said, “Saudi Arabia must not seek to bring baseless accusations against Iran with the intention of political gains and increasing tensions in the region.”
Qasemi further said that Riyadh had not passed on any information to the Islamic Republic of Iran regarding the accused. “Iran’s principle policy toward Persian Gulf countries is mutual respect, good neighbourliness, and no interference in domestic affairs of other countries.”