Iraq has agreed to repatriate Saudi prisoners who fought alongside insurgents
against U.S.-led forces under a deal that signals further improvement of
relations between the 2 major Arab countries.
The prisoner exchange deal comes less than a month after Saudi Arabia, which
has had uneasy relations with Iraq’s Shi\ Muslim-led government, named an
ambassador to Baghdad for the 1st time since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in
It also comes ahead of an Arab summit in Baghdad on March 29 which has been
delayed twice by regional turmoil and acrimony between Baghdad and some Sunni
Muslim Gulf Arab states.
“The agreement emanates from the strong relations between the 2 brotherly
people and in the interest of strengthening friendship and cooperation between
them,” the Saudi Justice Ministry said in a statement.
It was issued after the accord was signed in Riyadh by Justice Minister
Muhammad al-Eissa and his Iraqi counterpart Hassan al-Shimari.
An Iraqi Justice Ministry spokesman said the deal was part of Prime Minister
Nuri al-Maliki’s efforts to strengthen ties with Saudi Arabia. “The 2 sides
agreed that this will be effective as soon as possible,” spokesman Haider
He said the accord would affect some 38 Iraqis held in Saudi Arabia and some 62
Saudis convicted on security-related charges ranging from entering Iraq
illegally to killings. 5 of the Saudis had been sentenced to death and 2 were
Deputy Justice Minister Bosho Ibrahim said that almost all of the 62 Saudis are
accused of “terrorists acts”.
Thousands of Saudis travelled to Iraq to fight alongside Islamist insurgents
after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Official Saudi rights group statistics
show that less than 100 Saudis are held in Iraq.
Under the accord, prisoners from each country will serve out the remainder of
their sentences in their home countries without being eligible for pardons.
Saudi media said the deal does not cover inmates facing the death penalty.