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Saudis arrested Australian in raid on alleged extremist group

Saudi Arabian security services snatched a West Australian man in a raid on the hideout of an alleged extremist group planning to wage war in Afghanistan – beginning an 18-month ordeal inside a maximum security Riyadh prison.

The man’s younger brother, also an Australian, was arrested more than a year later, filming protesters on his mobile phone outside a mosque in the Saudi capital.

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He was released from custody in February but Saudi officials summoned him for questioning last month, during which he was asked to surrender his passport.

The fresh details in the case of Shayden and Junaid Thorne have emerged as the men’s family accused the Foreign Affairs Department of not doing enough to get  them returned to Australia.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr directly raised the case of Shayden Thorne, 25, with Saudi officials in June last year.

Senator Carr said in a statement the Australian embassy in Riyadh had also raised the case at least 50 times with Saudi officials and requested he be given more regular access to sunlight and exercise, moved to a non-smoking cell and given more varied food.


Australian diplomats attended each of his three appearances at a Special Criminal Court in Riyadh – the most recent four days ago.

Experts on international studies say he is in a difficult situation and may face the death penalty.

Younger brother Junaid Muhammed Thorne, 23, was arrested in December 2012 at a demonstration in support of prisoners and released two months later.

He  sought extra help from Australian representatives only after  being summoned by Saudi officials in April, and told SBS Television on Wednesday he feared further arrest. It is understood his residency permit in Saudi Arabia has expired. The brothers have reportedly lived in the country for a decade.

Junaid Thorne said he feared his brother had been beaten, telling ABC TV, ‘‘I have seen a few bruises on his body, but he never wanted to tell me that he was being tortured.’’

Shayden, who has been visited in prison by Australian officials on at least six occasions, is not believed to have raised any complaints about torture, only the restricted conditions in incarceration.

He was arrested in November 2011 after Saudi security services raided a compound where a group of alleged extremists had been gathering.

The group are accused of accessing  mujahideen websites linked to the Afghanistan war and planning to join fighters in the conflict.

Islamist extremists have long railed against the rule of the Saudi royal family as oppressive and corrupt.

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