Saudi Arabia has officially designated the Muslim Brotherhood movement as a terrorist organization, state television reported, citing a statement issued by the country’s Interior Ministry.
The move follows a royal decree issued last month ruling that any citizen found guilty of fighting in conflicts abroad faces between three and 20 years in prison. The kingdom’s authorities are hoping to deter Saudis from joining rebel forces in countries such as Syria, potentially posing a security risk once they return home.
Riyadh also fears the Brotherhood, whose conservative Sunni doctrines challenge Saudi Arabia’s dynastic rule, has tried to build support inside the kingdom since popular uprisings swept across the Arab-speaking world.
The Brotherhood has also been designated a terrorist organization by Egypt’s military-backed government, which ousted the country’s former president Mohammed Morsi, a prominent member of the group, back in July.
Despite past efforts by Saudi Arabia’s religious authorities to dissuade citizens from travelling to Syria to fight Assad, the Interior Ministry estimates that approximately 1,200 Saudis have done so.