Saudi Arabia is hoping to wean jailed Al-Qaeda terrorists off religious extremism with counselling, spa treatments and plenty of exercise at a luxury rehabilitation center in Riyadh, AFP reported on Friday.
In between sessions with counselors and talks on religion, prisoners will be able to relax in the center’s facilities which include an Olympic-size indoor swimming pool, a sauna, a gym and a television hall, the report said.
The new complex is the work of the Prince Mohammed bin Nayef Center for Counseling and Care, a body set up seven years ago to rehabilitate extremists jailed during a Saudi crackdown on the local branch of Al-Qaeda.
"Just under 3,000 (prisoners) will have to go through one of these centers before they can be released," interior ministry spokesman General Mansur al-Turki told AFP.
Another center has already opened in the western port city of Jeddah, and three more are planned for the north, east and south of the desert kingdom.
The new facility in Riyadh, however, is the first to offer inmates a taste of luxury as an incentive to moderate their beliefs, noted the report.
The centers bear the name of the current interior minister, who spearheaded the government's crackdown on Al-Qaeda following deadly attacks by the group between 2003 and 2006 in which more than 150 Saudis and foreigners were killed.
Al-Qaeda jihadists, many of them trained in Afghanistan, had targeted Saudi Arabia for allowing U.S. troops to set up bases in the kingdom during the Gulf War and to stay on afterwards, until they eventually withdrew in 2003.
During the crackdown, many terrorists fled from Saudi Arabia into Yemen's lawless southern and southeastern regions where the network formed Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in January 2009 -- classified by the United States as the jihadists' deadliest branch.
The Riyadh center spreads over an area equivalent to around 10 football pitches and is designed to accommodate 228 prisoners from the "deviant group," the term used by Saudi authorities to refer to Al-Qaeda.
Each of the 12 buildings at the flagship facility will host 19 prisoners, who will have access to special suites where they can spend time with visiting family members, reported AFP.
Good behavior could earn them a two-day break with their wives.
During the day, the prisoners will attend seminars on religious affairs, aimed at steering them away from thoughts of jihad.
"In order to fight terrorism, we must give them an intellectual and psychological balance... through dialogue and persuasion," the director of the rehabilitation centers, Said al-Bishi, told AFP, adding that a total of 2,336 Al-Qaeda prisoners have now been through Saudi rehabilitation schemes.
"The percentage of those who rejoin the deviant minority does not exceed 10 percent," Bishi said, a proportion he described as "encouraging".
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)