A Saudi court on Sunday issued various sentences against 69 Palestinian and Jordanian detainees, with some handed jail terms of up to 22 years, over alleged support for the Palestinian Hamas movement.
Dozens of Palestinians have been detained and facing trial before a terrorism court since February 2019, including businesspeople, academics and students.
Sources in the besieged Gaza Strip have previously told Middle East Eye that they believed the crackdown was linked to warming ties between Israel and Riyadh.
An official Hamas source told MEE last year that the majority of the detainees were Hamas members who had resided in the Gulf country for decades, accusing Saudi Arabia of “targeting everyone who is linked with resistance” against the Israeli occupation.
On Sunday, the Committee of Jordanian Detainees in Saudi Arabia, a Jordanian rights group, said sentences have been issued against 69 Jordanians and Palestinians, with some of them sentenced to 22 years in prison while others were acquitted.
The sentences have not yet been made public. Detainees can appeal against the sentences after 40 days, according to the sister of Jordanian detainee Tarek Abbas.
Hamas middleman sentenced
The Saudi court sentenced the Hamas representative in Saudi Arabia, Mohammed al-Khoudary, to 15 years in prison, while his son, Hani, was sentenced to three years, according to Anadolu agency.
The Turkish news agency quoted Abd al-Majid, Khoudary’s brother, as saying that the sentence against him includes “clemency for half the term (seven-and-a-half years)”.
The 82-year-old Khoudary is a veteran Hamas leader who was responsible for managing the relationship with Saudi Arabia for two decades.
Khoudary had long had a relationship with the Saudi royal family and security agencies and was the conduit for their indirect talks with Hamas before being detained in April 2019.
Amnesty International has previously said that the Khoudarys had not been not allowed access to a lawyer while in detention.
Saudi authorities have yet to comment on Sunday’s verdicts.
The verdicts were scheduled to be announced in October but were brought forward, a decision welcomed by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh who expressed hope that it will include the release of all Palestinians held pending the case.
He appealed to Saudi Arabia to release the detainees “based on the historical positions of the Kingdom and the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques in support of the Palestinian people and their just cause”.
Hamas was established in 1987 and is generally viewed in the Arab world as a legitimate resistance movement against Israel’s occupation of Palestinians lands, although Israel and the United States consider it a terrorist group.
A number of its founders and close associates have lived in the Gulf kingdom, where large donation campaigns were launched for the movement, some with official Saudi blessings.
But the kingdom’s relationship with the Gaza-based faction appears to have soured since the election of US president Donald Trump, a staunch supporter of Israel, and the emergence of Mohammed bin Salman as Saudi Arabia’s crown prince.
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