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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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95 bin Laden links convicted

LONDON — Saudi Arabia has convicted 95 people of being linked to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and sentenced them to prison terms of one to three years, a Saudi human rights campaigner said
The 95 were convicted of charges that included belonging to or supporting al-Qaida, and received sentences from one to three years, al-Khamis said late last week.
Saudi authorities are holding 400 others in jail, Abdelaziz al-Khamis, head of the London-based Saudi Center for Human Rights Studies, said in an interview.
He said authorities had detained a total of 2,500 for questioning since the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, most in the past three months as the United States geared up for possible war against Iraq.
Government officials weren’t immediately available for comment. A press office spokeswoman at the Saudi Embassy in Washington D.C., who did not give her name, said officials who could discuss the subject had left for the night.
Instead of holding trials, a cleric who had read official intelligence reports “came to the prison cells, asked the prisoners a few questions and sentenced them on the spot,” al-Khamis said.
He said his London-based center, established in September, has 3,700 members — including doctors, lawyers, journalists, government officials and a judge — working clandestinely inside Saudi Arabia to provide information about human rights abuses.
Saudi authorities were not available for comment late Wednesday.
The kingdom said last month it had referred 90 Saudis to trial for alleged al-Qaida ties and that 250 Saudi suspects were under investigation.
Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef also said at the time that more than 150 Saudi suspects had been released after being cleared of terror connections. The announcement was the first word of Saudi proceedings connected to post-Sept. 11 crackdowns.
Saudi Arabia was the homeland of 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers.
An official with Human Rights Watch in New York, Virginia Sherry, said Tuesday she was unaware of 2,500 Saudis being arrested since Sept. 11, 2001. But she said the group’s figures are based only on government announcements.
Among those detained, al-Khamis said, were Saudis who fought Soviet invaders in Afghanistan in the 1980s but said they had long since ended links with militant groups.
Bin Laden, whose Saudi citizenship was revoked in 1994, opposes the Saudi royal family. He demands that American troops there leave, objecting to the presence of foreign troops in the land where Islam was founded.
Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally, has defended itself against accusations in the American media, Congress and policy circles that it is not doing enough to crack down on suspected militants.

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