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Saudi Arabia Sends Team to Gitmo

September 23, 2002

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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) _ Saudi Arabia said it will apply sharia, or Islamic law, to Saudi nationals being held at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base if they are sent home, the kingdom’s interior minister said.

``If they are to be punished, they will be punished according to sharia, the law of the land,″ the official Saudi Press Agency quoted Prince Nayef as saying during a police meeting late Saturday.

He said that a Saudi team was sent to the U.S. base in Cuba to identify the Saudi detainees and discuss the circumstances of their arrest. The kingdom has said that 125 men detained at Guantanamo Bay for suspected links to al-Qaida are Saudis.

The oil-rich Gulf kingdom is the birthplace of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 hijackers who crashed planes into New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon in Washington and a Pennsylvania field.

Saudi Arabia has been criticized by some who question whether the kingdom’s culture breeds Islamic extremism. President Bush’s administration, however, has publicly stated that it’s pleased with Saudi cooperation in the war on terror launched after the Sept. 11 attacks.

It took five months before Saudi officials acknowledged most of the hijackers were Saudi.

In June, Saudi Arabia announced it had arrested 13 al-Qaida sympathizers, including 11 Saudis. Two months later, it said it was holding Saud al-Rasheed, a man wanted by the FBI for suspected links with al-Qaida.

Saudi authorities recently announced the release of six of 16 Saudis handed over from Iran in June on suspicion of al-Qaida links ``along with several women and children, while the others are still being questioned.″

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