Ninth fugitive in jail, HOOD opposes military trial [Archives:2006/946/Front Page]

May 15 2006

By: Amel Alariqi
SANA'A, May 13 ) Yemeni security arrested the ninth escapee who broke out from a prison in Sana'a in February as reported by official media.

The man was identified on Thursday as Abdullah Ahmad Al-Raymi, who had been serving a prison sentence for terrorist offences. A security source was quoted on the Ministry of Defense Web site Thursday as saying, “Abdullah Al-Raymi was recaptured following a successful intelligence operation in cooperation with the anti-terrorism department and security agencies that lasted for three weeks.” The source said Raymi was seized in the province of Mareb, east of the Yemeni capital, Sana'a.

Last month Khaled Mohammed Al-Batati, was the eighth recaptured man of the 23 escapees. Al-Batati, who was convicted last year of plotting to blow up the embassies of Britain and Italy and a French cultural centre in Sana'a was serving a three-year prison term in a jail in Sana'a before he escaped with and 22 prisoners tunneling their way out of the prison on February 3rd this year.

According to official sources, 13 among the 23 fugitives are Al-Qaeda suspects. The fugitives escaped through a tunnel they dug from a cell in their prison at intelligence service headquarters in the southern Sana'a suburb of Hada'a, to the toilets of a prayer hall for women using steel food pots and cooking tools.

Listed among the Al- Qaeda fugitives is the second main convict in the USS Cole bombing, Jamal Al-Badawi. He had been serving a 15-year jail term. Four other convicts in the attack serving jail terms from four to 10 years also fled the prison.

Also among the escapees was Fawaz Al-Rabyee, whom a state security court sentenced to death in August 2004 after convicting him of leading a 14-member group linked to Al-Qaeda. Rabyee, who is wanted by US authorities over suspected links to Osama bin Laden, was found guilty in a spate of attacks including the Limburg attack.

Six convicts in the Limburg attack have surrendered to authorities, but none of the convicts in the Cole bombing was recaptured, security officials told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

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Immediately after the 23 prisoners' escape, Yemeni security forces set up checkpoints throughout Yemen to try to catch them. Additionally, the Interior Ministry announced a YR 5 million reward (about $25,600) for information on any of the escapees. Ministry officials said, at that time, the authorities had begun investigating to determine if the fugitives received inside or outside assistance. Local press reported that Yemeni authorities decided to reshuffle prison officials, as well as dismiss the prison chief and his deputy.

In this regard, the National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms (HOOD) said that referring security officers, who are accused of causing the escape of 23 prisoners from the intelligence prison, to military judiciary was illegal.

The head of the organization, who is also a lawyer, Mohammed Naji Alaw said in a letter to the General Attorney that military courts are specialized in looking into crimes committed by soldiers and officers in armed forces or into crimes that occur inside military camps and bases and other places the belong to the armed forces.

Alaw said that the suspects belong to a security organization, not to a military one. Alaw said the security officers should be tried before a normal penal court.

“The most important priority of justice and defending rights is to refer a suspect to the specialized court” said the letter.

The letter urged the prosecution to correct such “illegal measure” and to refer the case to a specialized court.