RIYADH — A Saudi defendant, among the 32 people accused of spying for Iran, confessed that he had sent a voicemail message to Iranian leader Ali Khamenei seeking financial support to establish a special center for Shiites in Makkah.
The defendant, who owned a Haj service company, said he was planning to use the center to instigate chaos among various Muslim sects during the pilgrimage.
He said he had supplied Iran with security information about the 2012 Haj in collaboration with an Iranian intelligence element who was part of the Iranian permanent mission to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
The suspects — consisting of 30 Saudis, an Iranian and an Afghan national — were apprehended in March-May 2013. They are standing trial before a special criminal court in Riyadh.
According to observers, the confessions of the spies were proof of Iran’s nefarious designs aimed at exploiting Haj to undermine the Kingdom’s security and stability and sow dissension among Muslims.
A number of defendants admitted that they had traveled to Iran where they met the Supreme Leader himself and had also visited Lebanon for meetings with Iranian intelligence elements.
Iranian officials in charge of Haj affairs had refused to sign the minutes of the meeting with Saudi officials to facilitate the arrangements for pilgrims.
The Council of Ministers condemned this act and said Iran was politicizing Haj and is solely responsible for preventing its citizens from performing Haj.
During his trial, a Saudi defendant said he was assigned to look for correspondents to the Iranian Al-Alam space channel to send misleading reports against the Kingdom.
Another defendant confessed that he was asked to provide Iranian intelligence elements with classified information about the Kingdom’s military and economic institutions.
Some of the accused said they received training on the use of espionage equipment in Lebanon, Iraq and Indonesia.