Dozens of students from Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states visited the Israeli Embassy in Washington to take part in an international education program, according to classified documents revealed by WikiLeaks over the weekend.
The documents revealed that embassy staff gave the students diplomatic briefings and even had their pictures taken with them.
Saudi Arabia on Saturday urged its citizens not to distribute “documents that might be faked” in an apparent response to WikiLeaks’ publication on Friday of more than 60,000 documents it says are secret Saudi diplomatic communications.
The statement, made by the Foreign Ministry on its Twitter account, did not directly deny the documents’ authenticity.
WikiLeaks said the documents were embassy communications, emails between diplomats and reports from other state bodies, which include discussions of Saudi Arabia’s position on regional issues and efforts to influence media.
The world’s top oil exporter, an absolute monarchy, is highly sensitive to public criticism and has imprisoned activists for publishing attacks on the ruling Al Saud dynasty and senior clerics. It maintains tight control over local media.
Since the 2011 Arab uprisings, the Saudi authorities have grown increasingly intolerant of dissent, apparently fearful that the instability sweeping neighboring countries will in turn hit the conservative Islamic kingdom.
Saturday’s statement is the only official government response since the release, which WikiLeaks says is the first batch of more than half a million Saudi documents it has obtained and plans to publish.
WikiLeaks did not say where it obtained the documents, but it referred in a press release to Riyadh’s statement in May that it had suffered a breach of its computer networks, an attack later claimed by a group calling itself the Yemeni Cyber Army.
Saudi state and private media on Saturday ignored the release.