The trial of members of a suspected al-Qaeda cell charged with planning attacks against two US military bases in Qatar has opened in the Saudi capital Riyadh.
The alleged cell, dismantled five years ago, was “the most important al-Qaeda” operation in Saudi Arabia, the country’s attorney-general said.
It had “planned attacks in Qatari territory against the Al-Udeid and As-Sailiyah US bases,” he added.
The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said on Sunday that some of the defendants were charged with recruiting and sending fighters to Iraq and sending money to the Taliban.
The 41 members included 38 Saudis, a Qatari, an Afghan and a Yemeni.
The alleged targets – As-Sailiyah camp and the Al-Udeid air base – served as launching pads for the US military’s attacks on Afghanistan in 2001 and on Iraq in 2003.
“The cell also had projects aimed at Kuwait,” the attorney general said, reading the indictment.
He said there was “co-ordination” between the group and al-Qaeda cells in Iraq and Syria to “ensure logistical support for their operations”.
Nine of the 41 accused were present at court on Saturday and the judge gave them time to review the charges. The other defendants would appear later, he said.
The defendants face charges of belonging to al-Qaeda, of taking part in attacks on public buildings and residential compounds, and of smuggling and possession of weapons.
The Saudi interior ministry announced on Sunday that an alleged al-Qaeda member who is one of 47 on an Interpol wanted list has said he will turn himself in.
“The wanted man Mujab Mohammed Jamal al-Qahtani has called his family telling them of his decision and asking them for help to return home and hand himself over,” said a ministry spokesman in comments carried by the SPA.
“Security services have arranged for his arrival and for reuniting him with his family upon his return,” the spokesman said in the statement, which gave no details on Qahtani’s current whereabouts or when he will return.
He will be dealt with “according to the procedures followed in similar cases, and his initiative will be taken into consideration when looking into his case”, the spokesman said.
In August, a similar ministry announcement said a man on the same wanted list had also surrendered to Saudi authorities.
International police agency Interpol issued a worldwide alert in January for 47 Saudis with suspected links to al-Qaeda wanted on terrorism charges.
The suspects posed “a potentially serious public threat at home and abroad due to their suspected involvement with al-Qaeda,” Interpol said at the time, citing the Saudi interior ministry.
In June, the kingdom started trying 85 suspected al-Qaeda members accused of taking part in a deadly 2003 attack inside the country.
Saudi authorities did not say then why it took eight years to being that trial.
In April, a judicial source said a total of 5,080 terrorist suspects either faced trial or had already been tried before the special court.