Saudi court sentences 15 to death in Iran spy cell trial
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Saudi court sentences 15 to death in Iran spy cell trial

Amid rising tension between rivals, desert kingdom to execute men on charges of espionage and stoking sectarianism

Saudi soldiers rest before praying the Fajr, prayer before sunrise, outside the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, September 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
Saudi soldiers rest before praying the Fajr, prayer before sunrise, outside the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, September 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — 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 Mideast powers.

A Riyadh criminal court handed down the sentences to the 32 people who were charged on February, including 30 Saudis, one Iranian and one Afghan national. 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.

Smoke rises as Iranian protesters upset over the execution of a Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran, Sunday, January 3, 2016. (Mohammadreza Nadimi/ISNA via AP)
Smoke rises as Iranian protesters upset over the execution of a Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran, Sunday, January 3, 2016. (Mohammadreza Nadimi/ISNA via AP)

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

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

Tensions have remained high between Shiite power Iran and the Sunni-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 told reporters that 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.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press

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