| GEO World|
| Saudi to try 991 suspects over al Qaeda violence|
| Updated at: 0201 PST, Thursday, October 23, 2008|
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia indicted 991 suspected al-Qaeda militants for carrying out 30 attacks since 2003, Saudi media reported. A statement from Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz said charges had been laid against the suspects, who have been handed over to the courts for trials.
"Saudi Arabia has faced in recent years an organized terrorist campaign that struck at society, its way of life and the economy and it was directly linked to the organization called al Qaeda," the statement said. The indictments aim to put an end to a chapter of violent opposition to the government run by the Al Saud ruling family in alliance with clerics.
The accused include some clerics who had publicly backed the militants, including Nasser al-Fahd, Ali al-Khodeir and Faris al-Shuweil, sources told Reuters. Fahd and Khodeir appeared on Saudi state television after their arrests in 2003 to call for an end to the bloodshed.
The group called Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula began a campaign to destabilize the U.S.-allied government in 2003 but the violence was brought to a halt by security forces in cooperation with foreign experts. Tuesday's statement cited a figure of 30 attacks, from suicide bomb attacks on housing compounds in Riyadh in 2003 to an attempt to storm the world's biggest oil processing plant at Abqaiq in 2006, the last militant operation of note.
It said more than 160 planned attacks had been foiled and the dead included 74 members of the security forces and 90 ordinary Saudis and foreign residents. It did not say how many militants died in the campaign. It said cyanide gas was among the weapons seized during the crackdown.
An Interior Ministry spokesman told media that most of the indicted men are Saudi nationals. Judges in Riyadh's general court began viewing the cases on Monday, but it was not clear when the trials would begin.
New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the trials might not meet international standards.
"The precise charges against the defendants remain unclear because the kingdom has no written penal code and existing rulings do not constitute binding judicial precedent," a statement said. "Human Rights Watch is seeking permission from the government of Saudi Arabia to attend the trials."