Saudi Arabia has clubbed Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood alongside the notorious al-Qaida as a terrorist group, and warned on Friday that those who join them or support them could face five to 30 years in prison.
A statement from the Gulf nation's interior ministry said King Abdullah approved the findings of a committee entrusted with identifying extremist groups, which were referred to in a royal decree earlier last month. The decree targets those who fight in conflicts outside the kingdom or join extremist groups or support them.
The counterterrorism law bans meetings of the groups inside or outside of the kingdom and covers comments made online or to media outlets.
The king's decree followed his country's enactment of a sweeping new counterterrorism law that targets virtually any criticism of the government.
The Muslim Brotherhood has been targeted by many Gulf nations since the overthrow of former Egypt President Mohammed Morsi, who led the Brotherhood.
Saudi Arabia has banned Brotherhood books from the ongoing Riyadh book fair. Earlier, it withdrew its ambassador from Qatar, which supports the Brotherhood along with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
In a statement, the Muslim Brotherhood condemned Saudi Arabia's decision. ''It is one of the founding principles of the group not to interfere in matters of other states, and this new position from the kingdom is a complete departure from the past relationship with the group, since the reign of the founding king until now,'' it said.
Egypt's foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdel-Attie today praised the decision, saying it ''reflects the coordination and solidarity'' between his country and Saudi Arabia. He told newspersons in Cairo that he hopes other countries make the same decision.
The Saudi statement, carried by the official Saudi Press Agency, identified the other terrorist groups named as al-Qaida's branches in Yemen and Iraq, including the Syrian al-Nusra Front, Saudi Hezbollah, and Yemen's Shiite Hawthis.
It said the law would apply to all the groups and organisations identified by the United Nations Security Council or international bodies as terrorists or violent groups. It said the law also would be applied to any Saudi citizen or a foreigner residing in the kingdom for propagating atheism or pledging allegiance to anyone other than the kingdom's leaders.