RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia, facing U.S. criticism for laxness on fighting terrorism, said Tuesday it has referred 90 Saudis to trial for alleged Al Qaeda links and that 250 Saudi suspects were under investigation.
The announcement from Interior Minister Prince Nayef, reported in the kingdom's Arabic-language newspaper Okaz, was the first word of Saudi court proceedings connected to post-Sept. 11 terror crackdowns.
Of the suspects being questioned, the prince said "investigations proved they have links with Al Qaeda and other similar networks, but we still need to determine the level of involvement for each one of them," according to the paper.
Prince Nayef also said more than 150 Saudi suspects had been released after being cleared of terror connections -- reportedly including a suspect wanted by the United States.
Saud Abdulaziz Saud al-Rasheed, 21, became a suspect after his photograph was found in material overseas with pictures of some of the Sept. 11 hijackers.
The FBI issued a bulletin for his arrest in August, nearly a year after the attacks. Al-Rasheed turned himself in to Saudi authorities days after learning of the bulletin.
His father, Abdulaziz al-Rasheed, told The Associated Press his son was freed Tuesday "after authorities found that charges leveled against him by the Americans were baseless."
In Washington, the FBI declined to comment on his reported release.
The father, who works for the Saudi Red Crescent in the capital Riyadh, said he intends to sue U.S. authorities for "tarnishing the image of my son, my family and my country by portraying my son as a terrorist."
The father said his son, who runs a sweet shop in Riyadh, traveled to Afghanistan to do humanitarian work and returned to Saudi Arabia several months before Sept. 11.
Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally, has defended itself against accusations in the American media, Congress and policy circles that it is not doing enough to crack down on suspected militants.
It took five months after the Sept. 11 attacks for Saudi Arabia to acknowledge that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis. Osama bin Laden was stripped off his Saudi citizenship in 1994.