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Published: Monday April 14, 2014 MYT 1:35:02 PM
Updated: Monday April 14, 2014 MYT 1:36:12 PM

Saudi Arabia jails 13 for aiding overseas fighters

RIYADH (Reuters) - A Saudi Arabian court on Sunday jailed 13 men to sentences ranging from one to 10 years for aiding and financing militants fighting abroad, conspiring inside Saudi Arabia and harbouring wanted suspects, state news agency SPA reported on Monday.

Other charges for which the 13 were convicted included money laundering, bribery, possession of illegal weapons. They were all given travel bans to come into force after their sentences finish. Another seven men were acquitted, SPA reported.

Saudi courts have sentenced hundreds of convicted militants to prison terms in recent months as they work to overcome a long backlog of cases related to a militant campaign last decade that killed hundreds.

The security forces detained thousands of people after the bombings and shootings started in 2003 who were accused of security offences, including joining militant groups and fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Saudi and international human rights groups have also accused the government of using its crackdown on militants to detain peaceful dissidents in the conservative Islamic kingdom, something the authorities deny.

In February King Abdullah issued a royal decree imposing prison terms of three to 20 years on any Saudi who travels overseas to fight, and of five to 30 years on any who gives moral or material support to groups the government considers extremist.

The move reflected the government's fears that the civil war in Syria, where many rebels fighting against the government are militants, coupled with Egypt's crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, will inspire radicalism inside the kingdom.

The world's top oil exporter is a leading supporter of both the Syrian rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad, and of Egypt's military rulers.

(Reporting By Angus McDowall; Editing by Michael Perry)

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