TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran began a closed trial on Monday for 21 suspects in the storming of Saudi diplomatic missions earlier this year, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported.
The trial is the first in the case of the January incident, when Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and a consulate in Mashhad after Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia executed Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shiite cleric and dissident. Iran views itself as the defender of the world’s Shiites.
The attacks on the diplomatic missions led to the severing of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran, regional rivals that back opposite sides in the civil wars in Syria and Yemen.
In Monday’s proceedings, the court heard the defense statements for 14 of the suspects, who are charged with participating in the “intentional damage” of the Saudi’s diplomatic posts as well as with “violation of law and order.”
The report did not identify any of the suspects. It only mentioned they are aged from 21 to 36 years and hold various non-government jobs, including a garment businessman and a private teacher.
ISNA further said the defendants claimed they were not aware their gathering was illegal. One reportedly said he was repentant, after learning that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was not happy about the incident.
ISNA did not say how it obtained details of the hearing, which is to continue on Tuesday.
Last month, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called for “transparency” in the trial and reiterated earlier remarks that the attacks on Saudi missions went against Iranian laws. In April, Iran said 48 people, including four clerics, would be tried in relation to the storming of the diplomatic missions.