- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The State Department on Monday said it was investigating reports that nine Americans are currently being held in Saudi Arabian prisons, including some on supposed terrorism-related charges.

Spokesman John Kirby said during a press briefing on Monday that the State Department had not been aware of recent claims concerning the alleged arrest of nine Americans until reports emerged this week in the local media and on a website belonging to Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry.

“What I can tell you is that we’ve seen these reports and are working hard to ascertain more details about them and about the veracity of them,” Mr. Kirby said on Monday. “We are in touch with the Saudi authorities, but I don’t have anything definitive with respect to the actual truth of these reports.”

Media outlets in Saudi Arabia began reporting on Saturday that nine Americas were among a total of 33 terror suspects swept up during the last week, and the Associated Press said on Monday that an official list of detainees kept by Riyadh had been updated that same day to show eight U.S. citizens have been arrested there since November.

Nafetah, a website run by Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry that contains a list of detainees, shows four Americans were arrested between November and December 2015, and another four Americans were detained on Jan. 25. The website does not include the individuals’ names, ages or genders, nor the charges against them; the ninth person was said to have been arrested in 2007 and already convicted.

“I just don’t know at this time how true that posting is,” the State Department spokesman said at Monday’s briefing. “What I can tell you is that we’re working closely with Saudi authorities to try to figure this out and to iron it out.”

The Saudi Gazette reported over the weekend that nine Americans had been arrested during the past four days alongside 14 Saudis, three Yemenis, two Syrians, an Indonesian, a Filipino, an Emirati, a Kazakhstan national and a Palestinian, citing an unnamed source. The state-linked al-Watan newspaper similarly reported that the eight recently detained Americans are said to be investigated for crimes related to terrorism.

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