Iran denies link to group arrested in Saudi Arabia over espionage

Iran Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast. (Reuters)

Iran’s foreign ministry denied on Sunday the alleged accusation Saudi Arabia made last week of the country’s involvement in a linked group of alleged spies who were arrested by the kingdom’s police.

Saudi Arabia said that it arrested 18 people last Tuesday, including an Iranian, Lebanese, and 16 Saudis who were accused of being involved in espionage activity.

An interior ministry spokesperson said on Tuesday that 16 of those arrested were Saudi, one Lebanese and one Iranian, adding they were captured in four different areas of the kingdom.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, denied that an Iranian national was involved in the alleged spying and called the allegations a “repetitive scenario,” according to Iran’s English-language Press TV on Sunday.

“Raising such baseless issues at the media level is merely for domestic consumption,” he said, according to Press TV.
According to the Saudi Press Agency, the suspects were found in Mecca, Medina, Riyadh and Eastern Province – where the country’s Shi’ite minority is concentrated.

The General Intelligence presidency and the Saudi interior ministry caught the men in a joint operation, said the report, adding the ministry “received information on Saudis and expats spying for another country.”

However, the report did not disclose the name of the country the suspects were allegedly working for.
The men were collecting data on “vital installation,” said the state news agency.

In an interview with Al Arabiya, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi said most of those arrested were from one sect, adding that they were spying for the Islamic Republic of Iran.

“Among those involved is a doctor and another is a Shi’ite cleric,” he said. “Others were working at [the Saudi oil company] Aramco.”

There are an estimated two million Shi’ites in the Sunni-dominated kingdom of about 27.5 million people.

Last Update: Sunday, 24 March 2013 KSA 21:16 - GMT 18:16