826 terror suspects to be triedMore reform for extremists [Archives:2005/812/Local News]

January 31 2005

The Dialogue Committee is preparing to begin its fifth round of dialogue to meet with followers of Hussein Al-Houthi.

Al-Houthi was killed last September after three months of fighting between his armed supporters and government forces in north Yemen.

According to Judge Hamoud Al-Hitar, head of the Dialogue Committee, in the last round 176 out of 350 Al-Houthi followers renounced extremist views and were released.

“The Dialogue Committee is for everyone, all those that have the wrong belief in Islam,” said Al-Hitar. “Those that are charged with committing a crime are turned over to the prosecution.”

The Yemeni government accused the radical Muslim cleric Al-Houthi of promoting violent, anti-US, anti-Israeli protests and secretly training his followers to form an armed militia. Al-Houthi established a rebel group, “The Believing Youth,” which were involved in violent protests against the United States and Israel at mosques. Government authorities faced armed resistance when they tried to arrest the cleric last June which led to hundreds of people being killed in the fighting.

Judicial sources said a week and a half ago that the Yemeni government will put 826 terror suspects on trial soon after the end of Eid Al-Adha. Eight hundred suspects, which are planned to go through court proceedings in groups, belong to “The Believing Youth.”

Twenty six of the extremists are reported to be alleged Al-Qaeda members who were involved in the bombing of the French oil tanker Limburg off the coast of Yemen in 2002 and other attacks in the country over the last two years. Two of the suspects are said to have been extradited from Saudi Arabia and one from Kuwait in 2004.

In August, a Yemeni court jailed five men convicted of being involved in the attack for ten years. Nine others were also sentenced to prison terms for plotting to attack Western embassies while one was sentenced to death convicted of killing a Yemeni police officer. The Yemeni appeals court will announce the final verdicts of the suspects on February 5.

The appeals court said in January that the final verdicts of militants found guilty and sentenced to death or prison terms last September for the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 is scheduled to take place on February 26.

The Dialogue Committee was established in the fall of 2002 and focuses on persuading extremists to believe in tolerance and people of different faiths living together in peace.

Late last year, 113 detainees believed to have been members of the Al-Qaeda international terrorist network were freed.

The French Foreign Ministry has invited Al-Hitar for a five-day visit in Paris to share the Dialogue Committee's philosophy and experience to fight terrorism. Countries from around the world have shown interest in the method being used by the Committee. Al-Hitar traveled to Great Britain twice last year to share his experience holding dialogue with suspects of radical Islamic groups. He was also invited last spring to attend the conference of Higher Council for Islamic Affairs in Cairo.