Charged with Terrorism, Murder & Sabotage Trial of Kidnappers Started in Abyan [Archives:1999/03/Front Page]

January 18 1999

The Abyan Primary Court started on Wednesday 13/1/99 the trial of Zein Al Abideen Ali Abu Bakr Al Mehdhar (known as Abul Hassan), Ahmad Mohammed Atef and Saeed Mohammed Atef on charges of kidnapping and killing foreign tourists.
The trial, in Zanzibar, Abyan governorate, was attended by more than 200 persons – mostly journalists, lawyers and others.
The defendants were also charged with undertaking sabotage operations in Yemen, under an organization called the Aden and Abyan Islamic Army.
Confronted with the charges, Abul Hassan laughed and ridiculed the court. He addressed the reporters saying, “We are launching Jihad (holy war) for the sake of Allah. Do you call that sabotage?”
He then started a long speech on Islamic religion. The judge tried to interrupt, but Abul Hassan insisted on finishing his lecture. He emphasized that he kidnapped the foreign tourists to pressure their governments to stop hurting Muslims in Iraq and the Sudan and to block U.S. and UK efforts to impose their hegemony on the whole world and to end their bid to humiliate Muslims.
He confessed that he was the leader of the operation and that he was aided by ten members of the Aden and Abyan Islamic Army.
Regarding the charge of acquiring weapons and telecommunication equipment, Abul Hassan retorted, “Yes. We are Mujahideen and will continue calling for Jihad against the government” which he said was atheist.
He refused to answer the attorney’s question or to cooperate with him, saying the he does not recognize him and preferred the questions to be directed by the judge. He also said that he does not recognize the court because it is not committed to Islamic law.
Abul Hassan asserted that the 21st century will witness a battle between the cross and the crescent and that the latter will prevail.
Asked about his army, he said that his army was the first to fight the socialists in the 1994 war and that it backed the state.
He refused being described along with his army as a gang, saying they were Mujahideen organized within that concept.
He acknowledged he had ordered the kidnapping of tourists and that among his conditions for their release was lifting the siege on Iraq. He also confessed using five of the tourists as human shields when the Yemeni forces advanced against them.
He also confessed firing against the security forces.
Asked how the four tourists were killed, he said that after Osama- one of his colleagues – was seriously wounded, he started firing indiscriminately against the tourists and the advancing forces.
He added that he had ordered his men to kill all the hostages in the event they were attacked.
On how they had planned to use the explosives, Abul-Hassan insisted that his army did not intend to kill innocent people. “We do not target civilians, but rather government interests. We want to free the people of Yemen from this regime, not to kill innocent people,” he said.
The second defendant Ahmad Mohammed Atef said that he does not know anything about this incident, adding that he received a telephone call saying that his brother was arrested. “I went to look for him, but was dragged into the case.”
He said that he was a member of the Islamic Army during the 1994 war but that he left it thereafter.
The third defendant, Saeed Mohammed Atef, 18, said that Abul Hassan had taken him from his village and that he found himself in the middle of the battle.
Abul Hassan interrupted saying, “He had to listen to me because I am the Amir (leader) of the group and he had to obey me.”
The court adjourned its sitting until after Eid Al Fitr as Abul Hassan, accused the judge of having a pre-determined verdict. The defendants were kept under strict security measures, fearing that their other elements would attempt to free them.
The attorney listed charges against 14 defendants, out of whom only 3 were present. The rest will be tried in absentia.
Ridhwan Saqqaf + Yusuf Sherif, Yemen Times, Aden.