2 Brits released, 2 more to be pardoned [Archives:2003/698/Front Page]

December 29 2003

Mohammed Al-Qadhi
Yemeni authorities announced Wednesday, December 24th that two British citizens detained on charges of terrorism were released while two others are expected to be released on an amnesty by the Yemeni government. Official sources said that Sarmad Ahamd and Shahid Bat were released after they completed five years of imprisonment in a prison in Aden.
The two persons were convicted by al-Tawahi court in 1999 along with other British citizens of Arab and Pakistani origin on charges of setting up an armed gang to plot some terrorist operations. These people were sentenced to 7 months- 7 years in jail. Some already finished imprisonment penalty and went back to England. The son of Abu Al-Hamzza al-Masri, chief of the Ansar al-Sharia'a group in London was released in 2002.
The eight British citizens plus other Arabs were arrested after the kidnapping of some foreign tourists in Abyan in 1998 where four tourists were killed when the government troops were trying to set the 16 tourists free.
Yemen said that other two British citizens would be pardoned and released due to the improvement of the relationship between Sana'a and London. Mohsen Ghailan and Malik Harhara would be released despite the fact they still have two more years to spend in jail.
The eight prisoners first admitted their involvement in plots of terrorist attacks to be carried in Yemen but later they denied and said they came to Yemen just to study Quranic teachings.
Yemen refused appeals from their families and the British government to set them free. It was trying to make a deal with London accepting to release them in return of having Abu al-Hamzza turned over to Yemen to be tried on charges of being the mastermind of some terrorist attacks that took place in Yemen. However, London said openly that there is enough evidence against Abu al-Hamzza to appear before court and that there is security agreement between the two countries concerning extradition of criminals. This issue cooled the relationship between the two countries.
However, the relationship is getting better now as Britain is involved in supporting Yemen technically in its fight against terror. A counter terrorism British team visited Sana'a last week. Some British military experts have been reported to be in Yemen for training Yemeni Special Forces prepared for fighting terrorism.