Saudi arrests 18 in spying probe
Riyadh, March 20, 2013
Saudi Arabia has arrested 18 people, including an Iranian, a Lebanese citizen and 16 Saudis, for spying, an Interior Ministry spokesman said.
Mansour Al-Turki said on state television the suspects were "involved with a spy network working for a foreign country".
Al-Turki later told Reuters he could not say who the 18 were suspected of spying for, pending further investigation.
The spying arrests, the first in recent memory, follow a string of accusations by Riyadh that an unnamed foreign country, widely understood to mean Iran, had instigated protests inside Saudi Arabia.
The arrests were made four days ago and the suspects were being investigated before being handed over to judicial authorities, Al-Turki said on television.
"They were gathering information about installations and vital areas in the country and providing intelligence agencies of that state with it," he added.
Saudi Arabia has blamed unrest among members of its Shi'ite minority in the Qatif district of Eastern Province, where 16 people have been killed in clashes with police over two years, on outside intervention.
In November 2011 it said a foreign power was behind an attack by protesters on a police station in Qatif. Last January it said 23 people wanted in connection with the unrest in the area were acting on behalf of another country.
In December it said a successful attempt last August to hack the computer network of Saudi Arabian Oil Co (Saudi Aramco), had originated from servers in other countries. - Reuters