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Monday, October 11, 1999 Published at 21:55 GMT 22:55 UK

World: Americas

Bomb suspect sent to Saudi

Khobar Towers was attacked to drive US troops from Saudi Arabia

Hani al-Sayigh, the Saudi national wanted in connection with the bombing of the American military base at al-Khobar in 1996, has been extradited to Saudi Arabia from the United States.

BBC's Richard Lister: "He retracted his confession"
In a report on the Saudi news agency SPA, Interior Minister Prince Nayif Bin Abdul Aziz said Mr al-Sayigh arrived in Saudi Arabia on Monday.

"We appreciate the USA's decision to respond favourably to our request and to honour the promise they had made to us," Prince Nayif said, adding: "We have specific information and evidence which confirm Sayigh's involvement in the unjust terrorist act in the town of Khobar about three years ago."

[ image: Janet Reno received assurances the suspect would not be tortured]
Janet Reno received assurances the suspect would not be tortured
Nineteen US servicemen died in the attack in which a huge car bomb was detonated in a parking bay outside a military dormitory.

Mr al-Sayigh unsuccessfully sought asylum in the US, arguing that - as a political opponent of the Saudi regime, he would probably be tortured if he was returned to his homeland.

In June 1997, Canada expelled him for alleged terrorist activity. The US Justice Department allowed him onto US soil for prosecution under a deal that he would plead guilty to the Khobar attack.

The US Justice Department says Mr al-Sayigh later reneged on the deal, denying he knew anything about the attack.

Sensitive case

US Attorney General Janet Reno said she had received assurances from the Saudi Government that Mr al-Sayigh would not be tortured.

[ image: Prince Nayef:
Prince Nayef: "Suspect is now in the hands of Saudi justice"
Prince Nayif said on Monday that the suspect would be interrogated "just like any other suspect" and would be tried according to Islamic law.

Earlier on Monday, the al-Sayigh family said they were having trouble finding him a lawyer in Saudi Arabia.

It is unusual for defendents to be represented in Saudi criminal cases. Correspondents say Saudi lawyers dare not get involved in a politically sensitive case like this, unless asked by the authorities.

In the past, political opponents have faced the death sentence after confessing to terrorist offences in Saudi Arabia.

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