Last chance for Al-Qaeda suspects [Archives:2006/942/Front Page]

May 1 2006

SANA'A, April 30 ) The State Security Specialized Penal Court (SSSPC) scheduled Al-Qaida's 19 suspects final session for the 21st of this month. This will be the suspects' last chance to defend themselves before the final verdict is made. The defense lawyers will present their last and strongest evidence in the defense of their clients who face charges of involvement in an armed gang plotting to kill foreigners in Yemen as well as Yemenis, endangering the national security, and forging ID cards and passports.

This was announced in yesterday's court session for the 19 Al-Qaeda suspects including 4 Saudi citizens, charged with connections with Al-Qaeda network and accused of plotting attacks against western interests in Yemen. The court allowed prosecution to respond to the appeal presented by defense-advocates of suspects No. 18 and 19 Jalal Al-Kadas and Aqil Al-Kuhali. At the hearing, suspects renewed their denial of the charges attributed to them, describing them as false as they claimed to know each other during their current imprisonment.

During the hearing, suspect Mohsen Bal'eed complained that he was subjected to beating seven times in the political security and insisted on his extradition to Saudi Arabia, claiming he is a Saudi and not a Yemeni. Bal'eed confessed that he forged his ID card at age 17, disguised to have the name Ammar Ahmar Saleh Al-Hazmi for the purpose of traveling to Iraq.

The other Saudi suspect Mohamed Al-Qahtani confessed that he came from Iraq in the company of an Iraqi patient, one of those injured in Iraq battles. He said he will surrender himself to the Saudi Embassy in Damascus but fears torture. Al-Qahtani denied that he does know other suspects saying it was only in prison when he recognized them.

All suspects claimed the main reason for their trial is traveling to Iraq. Confirming their sentiments they shouted from inside the dock, “Allah is the Greatest, Victory to Islam, Muslims, Usama Bin Laden, Aiman Al-Dhawahri, Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi and all militants in the Islamic countries.”

The defense-team termed the trial a drama and demanded the court judge not to play along, labeling the indictment as false, as no crime actually happened. It called for the court not to prolong the case-related procedures or withhold the case. Lawyer of Saudi suspects Abdulmalik Al-Sanabani said prolonging case procedures and trials constitutes an extra burden on the suspects' families who attend each session.

At another session, the court discussed case of Nawaf Mohamed Behaibeh, 23, accused of harboring and hiding suspects Jamal Al-Badwi and Fahd Al-Qasa'a after they escaped from Aden political security prison in April 2003. The pair is charged with bombing the USS Cole.

The prosecutor read out the indictment, explaining that Nawaf Behaibeh, along with others, formed an armed gang that assaulted officials authorized to arrest Al-Badwi, Al-Qasa'a and other wanted suspects. Behaibeh denied the charge attributed to him by the prosecutor. “The charges are false and confessions were made due to psychological pressure,” he said.

The court concluded the session to enable Behaibeh's lawyer to view the case file and the prosecutor to present evidence in support for the indictment.

Al-Badwi, Al-Qusei' and eight other suspects are accused of the USS Cole Attack in October 2000. They escaped Aden political security prison in April 2003 and were recaptured. In September 2005, Al-Badwi was sentenced to death, but the Appeal Court reduced the sentence to a 15-year imprisonment term. Under the preliminary verdict, Al-Qusei' was sentenced to ten years in prison. Suspect Jamal Al-Badwi escaped along with other 20 accomplices through a tunnel stretching from the political security prison in Sana'a to a nearby mosque last February.