Saudi trio caught digging for treasure may face prison

It came after 'false reports of hidden treasure' at archaeological sites began to circulate online

Saudi Arabia hopes to attract tourists to archaeological sites such as Madain Saleh, north-west of Riyadh. Hassan Ammar / AP Photo
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Three Saudis may face prison after authorities busted them digging through archaeological sites in the kingdom, authorities and reports said on Wednesday.

The Commission for Tourism and National Heritage said it had referred three Saudi citizens to the public prosecutor's office for digging through archaeological sites after "false reports of hidden treasure" began to circulate online.

The commission issued a public warning against "taking action based on false information, which would damage archaeological sites and sites that contain important archaeological records".

Newspapers close to the government reported that prosecutors may charge the three excavators under the country's archaeological protection law, which would carry a prison sentence of "no less than one month and no more than one year".

Saudi Arabia is home to dozens of archeological sites, including ruins dating back to the second century BC.