SAUDI ARABIA SENTENCES 13 FOR BACKING MILITANTS IN SYRIA, AFGHANISTAN, OTHERS

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(Reuters) A Saudi court has sentenced 13 men to 14 years in prison for backing militants, aiding terrorism and helping young men go to Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan to fight.

The 13 sentenced were nine Saudi citizens, two Jordanians, an Egyptian and a Syrian.

The court said the men were convicted for owning material that glorified al Qaeda, money laundering, involvement in weapons training in militant camps and financing militants in Iraq.

Saudi government said on Thursday in Riyadh that it had sentenced thousands of its citizens to prison terms for similar offences over the past decade since al Qaeda waged a campaign of attacks from 2003 to 2006 inside the country, killing hundreds of people.

It said that the growing role of militants in Syria had raised fear in Riyadh about a new wave of radicalism among its own citizens. It said it had issued stern new penalties for fighting abroad or supporting groups, it said, were extremists.

It noted that the detentions had angered some conservative Saudis who fear they were being targeted for their religious beliefs, as well as among liberals who said they had not been given fair trials. It, however, denied such accusations.

Earlier this month, the government issued a list of groups it described as terrorist or extremist, including al Qaeda affiliates in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Shi’ite Muslim Hezbollah in Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Houthi rebels in Yemen.

It warned that moral or material support for such groups would incur prison terms of five to 30 years, while travelling overseas to fight would be punishable by sentences of three to 20 years.

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