Mass Trials Signal Saudis' Anti-Terror Progress

Nearly 1K will be tried according to Islamic law
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 24, 2008 3:07 PM CDT
This image made from footage broadcast by the Saudi state TV channel Al-Ekhbariah on April 27, 2007, is said to show weapons recovered during police operations.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – The biggest mass prosecution of Islamist extremists in Saudi Arabian history is the latest clue that the kingdom’ anti-terror campaign in on track, the Economist reports. The Saudis plan to try 991 prisoners on charges ranging from committing terrorist violence to justifying it in religious sermons—and will do so under Wahhabist Islamic law, lending the proceedings more legitimacy.

As Wahhabism is a major inspiration for the ideology of many extremists, the trials are expected to not only imprison terrorist operatives but strike at the theological heart of the movement. The move fits Saudi Arabia’s nuanced approach to terrorism: Beside law enforcement, the government plays testimony from reformed extremists on prime-time TV and provides counseling and financial support to repentant radicals in prison.