Britons confess on Saudi TV to bomb attacks

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The Independent Online

Saudi Arabian authorities broadcast televised confessions from three Britons yesterday, who, it is claimed, are behind a series of bombings linked to illegal alcohol trading among expatriates.

James Cottle, James Lee and Leslie Walker were shown explaining how they did three bombings, two in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, and one in the eastern city of Al Khobar between December and March.

The attacks came after a car bomb last November that killed a Briton, Christopher Rodway, for which another Briton, Sandy Mitchell, confessed on Saudi television in February.

Yesterday, Mr Walker was shown claiming he was asked to take part in the attacks by Mr Cottle and Mr Lee. "I, like an idiot, agreed. They told me that we were doing [this] to confuse the police and that we were doing this for Sandy," he said.

Speaking in English with an Arabic voice-over, the men described the attacks in almost identical detail, using street maps and photographs. Mr Lee said he and Mr Cottle were recruited in November for the Riyadh bombs and in December for attacks in the Al Khobar area. He did not give a motive or say who recruited them. The maximum penalty for the offences is death.

Amnesty International UK condemned the broadcasts, saying they breached international standards on fair trials and raised questions as to whether the confessions were obtained by torture or coercion.

The Foreign Office said the prisoners had been visited regularly and none had raised concerns about his treatment. A spokesman said constant contact was being maintained to ensure the men had proper legal representation.

During the broadcast, the Saudi Interior Minister, Prince Nayef, said the Britons were behind a 15 December blast in Al Khobar that blinded a Coca-Cola executive, David Brown, a second bombing in Riyadh on 10 January that caused damage but no casualties and a third explosion outside a book store in Riyadh on 15 March that injured a Briton and an Egyptian.

Prince Nayef said: "It gives me pleasure to announce investigators have identified those who committed the bombings ... all British citizens."

State-controlled newspapers have linked the attacks to the lucrative illegal alcohol trade. In a crackdown since the bombing that killed Mr Rodway, 12 Britons are being held in Riyadh. Six have been sentenced and are appealing against punishments combining public floggings of up to 600 lashes and jail sentences of up to two years. Mr Mitchell is facing death by beheading after he and two other men – from Canada and Belgium – confessed to killing Mr Rodway.

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