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Saudi court sentences 15 to death for spying for Iran

A court in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday sentenced 15 people to death and several others to prison terms in a case involving an alleged Iranian spy cell, a sign of the continuing tension between the two Middle East powers.

A Riyadh criminal court handed down the sentences to the 32 people who were charged in February, including 30 Saudis, one Iranian and one Afghan. Their names were not made public and it was not clear who and if anyone represented them in court.

There was no immediate reaction from Tehran on the verdicts and details about the case remain few.

Saudi state media reported in February that those charged were accused of establishing a spy ring in collaboration with Iranian intelligence and providing Iran with highly sensitive information on the Saudi military.

The reports said they also were charged with seeking to commit acts of sabotage against Saudi economic interests, inciting sectarian strife, recruiting others for espionage and participating in anti-government protests.

Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic relations with Iran after protesters stormed and ransacked two Saudi diplomatic posts in the Islamic Republic.

Those violent demonstrations came after Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shia cleric in January, along with 46 others.

Tensions have remained high between Shia power Iran and the Wahhabi-ruled kingdom of Saudi Arabia all year long. On Monday, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman said Tehran and Riyadh can and should cooperate to resolve regional crises.

Bahram Ghasemi said the recent OPEC agreement to cut oil production and the Lebanese presidential election – in which an Iran ally who was elected president designated a Saudi ally for prime minister – were both recent examples of Iran-Saudi cooperation.

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