Socialists say verdict a green light for terroristsCourt upholds death sentence [Archives:2005/836/Front Page]

April 25 2005

Mohammed Al-Qadhi
Sana'a, April 23- The North Sana'a Court of Appeals upheld the death sentence of a Muslim extremist convicted of assassinating prominent socialist politician Jarallah Omar and overturned the jail sentences of other five of his accomplices on Saturday.

The verdict had been postponed for three months to reiterate the death penalty of Ali Ahmad, who assassinated the Yemeni Socialist Party's assistant secretary-general, Jarallah Omar on December 28, 2002 during the general conference of the Islah party. The convicted Islamic extremist was accused of helping to plot an attack that killed three American missionaries in a hospital days later.

After the verdict was read by judge Mohammed al-Akkwa'a, Ali, who was dressed in a blue prison suit and confined in a cage in the courtroom took off his shoes and held them up toward the judge's face, a sign of contempt. He shouted “God is Great! God is Great!” and warned, without elaboration, that “the court has itself to blame.” He nodded in respect to God and signifying a challenge. He said before the verdict was read that he killed Omar due to his being anti-shari'a and for being secular.

Ali was also convicted on charges stemming from his involvement in a plot that killed three Americans at a Southern Baptist missionary hospital in Jibla, two days after Omar's assassination. He was also found guilty of forming a terror cell to buy weapons with the intention of killing other local intellectuals, writers and journalists, members of the al-Buhra religious sect and missionaries.

The judge said that there was not enough evidence to convict the other accomplices and therefore acquitted them. Hisham al-San'e was sentenced during the preliminary court verdicts to ten years in jail, Maimon al-Sihdar to five years, Ahmaed al-Batit to four years, and Abdulkareem al-Qaifi to three years. They were all acquitted. They were very happy with the verdicts and hugged their relatives from behind the bars.

Mohammed al-Mikhlafy, the advocate representing the late politician, was critical of the court's decision to acquit the alleged accomplices in Omar's killing.

“The court has now given the chance to the acquitted defendants to kill the remaining socialists and Westerners,” he said. “The court has dealt with the case as a personal criminal act, ignoring its political implications.” These are not just and fair verdicts; they are meant to satisfy the government's intention to let this terrorist cell free-handed and give them a green light to target the socialist party.”

Security had been tight for the trial, with several police vehicles and roadblocks just outside. The acquitted defendants were taken away in an armored vehicle. Their chants of “God is Great!” could be heard from inside.

Abed Abdul Razak Kamel, who was sentenced to death for killing the American missionaries, had told the court during his trial that he had coordinated his attack with al-. On Dec. 30, 2002, Kamel walked through a hospital security checkpoint, concealing his weapon under loose-fitting clothes, and opened fire at a staff meeting, killing three American doctors.

The Islah party welcomed the verdict against Ali ,who was a student at al-Eman university. Mohammed Qahtan, head of the political dept. of Islah said that his party compells the Yemeni authorities to disclose all accomplices in the crime. “This crime of killing Omar has been so heinous that it moved all Yemeni people and therefore, we ask the Yemeni authorities to present all people involved in it,” he said.

In their meeting April 9, the Opposition Joint Meeting Coalition, including the socialists and Islah threatened to internationalize the inquiry into Omar's assassination if the judiciary fails to investigate the murder properly, disclosing facts to the public. The socialists have always asked for interrogations of all the people whose names were mentioned during the investigations with the assassin, including prominent leaders of the Islah like Abdulmajeed al-Zindani, Mohammed al-Anisi and others, which the prosecution refused to carry out.

During the appeal hearing the YSP advocates complained that the procedures of the tribunal were not done well; they accused prosecution of not working on the case in a serious manner and not completing the investigations into the case, unraveling the real perpetrators behind the assassination of the outstanding politician. The advocates insisted that some pages from the investigation report conducted by intelligence agents were torn out by the prosecutor.

The socialist party, which is expected to officially comment on the verdict soon, have already accused some influential figures, including clerics, of cooperating with the terrorist group of Ali to assassin Omar and other socialist leaders and intellectuals. It demanded that the religious fatwa passed during the civil war of 1994 against the socialists should be abolished and that springs of extremism and terrorism should be dried. The YSP warned against the attempts made to marginalize the political dimension of the crime, pointing out that investigating the criminal aspect would encourage other terrorists.

The socialist party appealed to international and Arab human rights organizations and activists to exercise more pressure on the Yemeni authorities not to go ahead with the case and conduct further investigations into the assassination, dealing with the case as a political crime.

Human Rights Watch urged, in a letter addressed to President Ali Abdullah Saleh in August 2003, that government of Yemen should undertake “a full, independent, and impartial investigation” into the assassination of Omar. “There are serious and widespread allegations about possible involvement in this killing by government security officials and prominent Salafi political figures. These allegations need to be addressed in a transparent and serious manner, and dismissed or acted upon. We therefore call on you to authorize a special investigation, to be conducted in a thorough and impartial manner, into all aspects of this crime, and to make the results public,” the letter said.

“A special investigation is essential because the case is a highly charged one, owing to the prominence of the victim. Omar was deputy secretary-general of the YSP and its leading strategist. At the time of his death he was working to forge an alliance of the YSP with the Islah (Reform) Party. His assassination occurred at a public Islah party congress”, the letter said, adding, “Because of the very public setting of the assassination, which was carried out at close range on December 28, 2002, the fact that `Ali Ahmad was the trigger-man in this killing is not in dispute. However, between twelve and thirty other persons have reportedly been detained in connection with the assassination and in connection with the reportedly related murders of three American medical missionaries two days later, on December 30.” information relevant to the investigation.” Article 17 of the Principles calls for a written report “within a reasonable period of time on the methods and findings” of the investigation, and calls for the report to be made public.

“Given Omar's status as one of Yemen's most important opposition figures, we strongly urge your government to take immediate steps to carry out a through, independent and impartial investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death. We thank you for your attention to this important matter, and look forward to your response,” the message stressed.

The verdict, is believed to have put an end to the case from the point of view of the judiciary but as a political crime the case remains open.