RIYADH: Saudi Arabia said Tuesday that 18 people, including one Iranian, one Lebanese citizen and 16 Saudis, had been arrested for spying.
“Sixteen Saudis, an Iranian and a Lebanese were arrested in coordinated and simultaneous operations in four regions of the kingdom,” including the capital Riyadh and the holy city of Mecca, the Interior Ministry said in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency.
The suspects, some of whom were arrested in the Eastern Province where the kingdom’s Shiite minority is concentrated, were working for a foreign country, the statement added.
Ministry’s spokesman Mansour al-Turki said the arrests were made four days ago and the suspects were being investigated before being handed over to judicial authorities.
“This is a case of espionage and those have been involved with a spy network working for a foreign country,” Turki told state television.
“They were gathering information about installations and vital areas in the country and providing intelligence agencies of that state with it,” he added.
Although the ministry did not reveal the name of the country for which the suspects were allegedly working, the announcement that an Iranian was implicated could point to the Islamic Republic.
Relations between Saudi Arabia and non-Arab Iran soured after the 1979 revolution that brought Shiite Muslim clerics to power on the other side of the Gulf.
News of the arrests came as rights activists Tuesday reported that Saudi security forces had arrested several Shiites across the kingdom, including two preachers, over the past days for unspecified reasons.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 20, 2013, on page 1.