Saudi Tied to bin Laden Turns Himself In Under Amnesty Offer
Published: July 14, 2004

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, July 13 - A Saudi suspected of being a member of Al Qaeda, who had appeared on a videotape with Osama bin Laden, was flown back to the kingdom from Iran after he surrendered under a government amnesty, state television said Tuesday.

Khaled al-Harbi, also known as Abu Suleiman al-Makki, had been living in the wild lands along the Iranian-Afghan border and had contacted the Saudi Embassy in Tehran in response to the amnesty offer.

Television showed Mr. Harbi, heavily bearded and in a wheelchair, being carried off a plane on arrival in the kingdom with his family. It did not say when he surrendered or returned to Saudi Arabia.

A Saudi security official said Mr. Harbi was the man seen talking with Mr. bin Laden, himself a Saudi, on a videotape in which the two praised the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He said Mr. Harbi had fought in Afghanistan and Bosnia.

"He is big in the sense that he is one of the Saudis that were close to bin Laden," the security official said, adding that Mr. Harbi had no role in a rash of militant attacks in Saudi Arabia over the past year, for which Al Qaeda claimed responsibility.

Mr. Harbi was the third person to surrender since Saudi Arabia announced on June 23 a one-month amnesty aimed primarily at militants who had attacked Westerners, government targets and energy sites in the world's biggest oil exporter.

"I came in obedience to God and the ruler," Mr. Harbi told Saudi television. "There is no doubt that this is a gracious initiative by King Fahd and his crown prince."

"There is no doubt this is an opportunity which every wise man who has faith in his heart should take advantage of and return to this country," he added.

Iran said Mr. Harbi was repatriated at his own request.

The Saudi Interior Ministry said in a statement that Mr. Harbi did not have any official documents when he arrived at the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. The mission had issued the necessary papers for him and his family to fly them home "after coordination with Iranian authorities," the statement said.

The ministry said Mr. Harbi had been in the Iranian-Afghan border region and had contacted the Saudi Embassy in Iran, "expressing his readiness to take advantage of the royal amnesty." It said he would be taken directly to the hospital.

The security official said Mr. Harbi was not among Al Qaeda militants from Saudi Arabia who are believed to be in Iranian custody.