Saudi court jails 13 Islamists for fighting abroad

RIYADH (AFP) - A court in Saudi Arabia on Monday jailed 13 defendants for up to 10 years on charges including joining a radical Islamist group and fighting and supporting fighters abroad.

The 13 were part of a larger cell of 32 and were convicted of "following the Takfiri doctrine", a term usually used to refer to Al-Qaeda, the official SPA news agency said. They were also convicted of charges including fighting abroad, supporting fighters financially, and helping "misled" people travel to conflict zones, SPA said.

Scores of Saudis are believed to be in the ranks of radical Islamist groups in areas of unrest across the Middle East, including Syria. Some of the defendants were also convicted of possessing arms and undergoing weapons training.

One was also found guilty of "exploiting religious seminars to spread his deviant thoughts among his pupils".

In July 2011, a series of prosecutions began over alleged offences committed during the peak of Al-Qaeda violence in the kingdom between 2003 and 2006.

King Abdullah in February decreed jail terms of up to 20 years for citizens who travel abroad to fight, after the conflict in Syria attracted several hundred Saudis.