Court bans journalists from attending tribunal Weak judge cripples progress in trial of 15 al-Qaeda suspects [Archives:2004/762/Front Page]

August 9 2004

Mohammed Al-Qadhi
The Sana'a Criminal Court concerned with crimes of terrorism ordered that media should be banned from attending the 10th hearing of the tribunal of the 15 alleged suspects of al-Qaeda without giving any reason, while advocates continued to boycott the tribunal.
Members of the Media who went to the court in the early morning were surprised to be told by court guards that they are banned from attending the hearing that was also boycotted by the advocates appointed by the court. Relatives of the suspects said that the hearing lasted for some minutes only as lawyers did not attend. The defendants were, as usual, indifferent to the judge court Ahmad al-Jermozi who looked very weak and failed to run the tribunal in a firm way. There was even talking inside the bar during the hearings. This forced the judge to adjourn the hearing until next Saturday while the prosecution again demanded that the tribunal hearings should be upheld for the final hearing.
The prosecution in the first hearing held May 29th charged the fifteen suspected terrorists, one still at large, with blowing up the French Oil Tanker in Mukalla in October 2002, carrying out several explosions in Sana'a, killing one soldier and plotting to blow up five embassies in Sana'a as well as plotting to kill the then US ambassador to Yemen Edmund Hull.
In its fifth hearing Saturday 19th June, the court banned journalists from attending the hearing. The journalists denounced the harassment and staged a protest to the office of the minister of Justice Dr. Adnan al-Jefri; they protested the discrimination between state-run and independent media. The minister responded positively and told the journalists it was their right to attend the sessions, as the law does not make the hearings closed to the media. He ordered the court judge to let journalists in. However, when journalists returned to the court; they were let in, but the judge Ahamd al-Jemuzi said the hearings should not be published, except for the decisions taken by the court.
Last week, advocates quitted the tribunal. The 11 advocates authorized by the Advocates Syndicates at the request of the court, repudiate that the court continue probing into evidence presented by the prosecution, before they have had a chance to copy the investigation reports. The prosecutor refused their demand and said the court had already decided that no copies are to be given to the defense; the court judge continued listening to the prosecution as showing the evidence, which made the advocates burst out in anger and leave the courtroom. This is the third time in which the failure of the judge has compelled advocates to quit the tribunal. The hearings have been characterized by messy proceedings. The advocates of the defendants complained from the beginning that their presence was meant to be just a decoration for the trial.
On the other hand, the suspected al-Qaeda operatives charged with bombing the USS Cole demanded in the fifth hearing last Wednesday that they should be released on bail.
The court judge Najeeb al-Qaderi, who seemed more controlling and influential, ordered the prosecution to present the rest of its evidences next Wednesday. During the hearing, the prosecution presented two witnesses to deliver their testimony; one of them is Saeed Salem who said the perpetrators set the boat used in the suicide attack in the yard of his house. However, when he was asked to look into the faces of the present suspects, as well as the photo of the prime suspect Abdulraheem al-Nasheri, in the US custody, the witness could not. The second witness Mohammed Abdu Ismael who took the boat from Hodeidah to Aden, said the same thing. Advocate Abdulaziz al-Samawi refuted the testimony and said it was full of contradictions and meant nothing to his clients, as the witnesses could not even recognize the suspects. The hearing was not attended b Jamal al-Badwi who is in the hospital for treatment for his injured leg, due to the gunfire when he was arrested last March.