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Saudi Arabia: 'Jihad against Russia' clerics to be prosecuted

The statement called for war against the Syrian government and its Russian backers [Getty]

Date of publication: 7 October, 2015

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Fifty-two clerics who have called for holy war against Russian military intervention in Syria will have legal action taken against them, sources have told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

Saudi Arabia will prosecute dozens of clerics who issued a statement on Sunday, calling for jihad against the Russian "invasion" of Syria, a source has told al-Araby’s Arabic service.

According to the source, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, Riyadh's interior ministry has decided to launch an investigation into the statement published by 52 mostly Saudi clerics.

"Calls such as these are in clear violation of anti-terror laws, which have made fighting in foreign conflict zones illegal," veteran journalist and commentator Qenan al-Ghamdi told al-Araby.

"The statement is essentially a call to arms in Syria aimed at encouraging states to send their young men to fight, similar to what happened in Afghanistan 35 years," Ghamdi said.

He added that the majority of the statement’s signatories are salafis, particularly from the Surouri strain of salafi thought, named after founder Mohammed Surour Zain al-Abidin from Syria.

Social media reaction

In Twitter obsessed Saudi Arabia, reactions to the statement came fast with many Twitter users condemning the call for holy war.

     
      Over 40 Saudis who fought in Syria and Iraq have been tried [Getty]

"Let the sons of the blood thirsty preachers be the first to go wage jihad," tweeted Kuwaiti activist Anwar al-Rasheed.

"For how much longer are we going to make the same mistakes and not learn from the past?," said Saudi lawyer Abd al-Rahman al-Lahim.

"[This statement] is the exact same scenario of 1979 repeating itself," tweeted linguistics professor Nasser al-Juhani, referring to the Soviet–Afghan War.

Since September 30, Russia has been conducting air raids across Syria against the positions of rebels and the Islamic state group alike, at the request of the Damascus regime.

The conflict in Syria, which began in March 2011, has claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people and left over one million injured.

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