BEIRUT: Lebanon has no information on a Lebanese suspect recently detained in Saudi Arabia for spying on the Arab country, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said in remarks published Thursday.
“Up till now, we have not received any information regarding the [Lebanese] suspect,” Charbel told the local daily As-Safir, adding that the Saudis were keeping interrogations secret.
On Tuesday, Riyadh said authorities had detained an Iranian, a Lebanese and 16 Saudis for spying.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are locked in a struggle for influence across the region.
According to Shiite activists, the detainees include two preachers, a banker and a university professor.
They were arrested in Riyadh, Mecca, Jeddah and the Eastern Province where the kingdom’s Shiite minority is concentrated.
Saudi Arabia Interior Minister spokesman Mansour al-Turki had said the men belonged to an "espionage case" and that the suspects had been "involved in a spying cell for a state."
"They were gathering information about installations and vital areas in the country and providing intelligence agencies of that state with it," he said.
Although he did not reveal the name of the country for which the detainees were allegedly working, the fact that an Iranian suspect was said to be among the spy ring could point to Tehran.
The local Arab News daily reported Tuesday that three Saudis had been sentenced to prison for spying on Saudi Arabia's state oil company by stealing hard drives. It was not clear whether this case was linked to the alleged spy cell.
Investigators said in September that a cyber attack intended to stop production at Saudi Aramco was carried out by insiders. Aramco later linked the attack to hackers in foreign countries.