A 32-person cell accused of espionage and ties to Iranian intelligence went on trial Sunday in Saudi Arabia, the London-based daily al-Hayat reported on Monday.

According to al-Hayat, the indictment against the cell members accused them of forming a spying unit that transmitted secret information related to Saudi Arabia's military capabilities to Iranian intelligence, thus hurting the kingdom's national security. The trial for the accused, most of whom are Saudi citizens, is taking place at Riyadh's Special Criminal Court.

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The cell members are also accused of planning terror attacks against vital economic facilities in Saudi Arabia through high-level security coordination with Iran. As part of this coordination, some of the members allegedly met with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.


The group is also accused of sending periodic reports about the kingdom to Iranian intelligence and holding meetings with its senior officials in Tehran and Beirut. According to the indictment, the cell members also attempted to recruit officials in Saudi government institutions and supported the protests and tumult that erupted in the predominantly Shi'ite eastern city of Qatif following the execution of the Shi'ite preacher, Sheik Nimr al-Nimr in December.

According to the report, the spying cell’s members were charged with "betraying the state." The punishment for this crime, that Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was also convicted of, is execution.