By Ghazanfar Ali Khan
RIYADH, (Arab News):
An official spokesman from the Saudi government has confirmed the arrest of 10 people involved in an Iranian espionage cell who were allegedly associated with the same spy network that was dismantled in March of this year by Saudi security officials.
A security spokesman confirmed that the latest cell had eight Saudis, one Lebanese and one Turkish national.
“Initial investigations carried out by authorities led to the detention of 10 others for involvement in espionage activity,” TV news channel Al-Ekhbariya reported citing sources from the Interior Ministry yesterday.
An earlier confession made by suspects arrested by the Kingdom in March also reinforced evidence.
Meanwhile, a Lebanese citizen held in connection with the first cell was released due to lack of evidence linking him with other suspects.
A total of 27 suspects, of which 24 Saudis, one Iranian, one Turkish and one Lebanese national — all residents in the Kingdom — are being held pending administrative and legal action.
Last month, Lt. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki, a security spokesman for the Interior Ministry, confirmed that evidence from an initial round of investigations indicated the involvement of the suspects and their connection with Iranian intelligence agencies.
Further investigation also revealed that the spies received monetary compensation in exchange of information pertaining to strategic locations.
Authorities continue to interrogate suspects pending the completion of governmental procedures.
Information related to espionage cells has been published in the past. Late last year, Saudi coastguards arrested a group of Iranians attempting to infiltrate the country by sea near the northeastern frontier with Kuwait.
In particular, a spy belonging to a cell of 18 people busted on March 19, of which 16 Saudis, one Iranian and one Lebanese national, was found to have paid regular visits to Iran.
The suspect was reading for a doctorate on Islamic unity at Qum University in the south of Iran. The information, published by the Al-Watan newspaper, further stated that he was the main organizer of a social forum in Jeddah.
Sources close to the defendant told reporters that he took a keen interest in studying moderate ideology during lectures, though he was described as an introvert who didn’t mingle much with fellow trainees despite his involvement in independent lectures and evening forums.