State Security Court jails Al-Banna [Archives:2008/1156/Front Page]

May 19 2008

SANA'A, May 18 ) The State security court ordered yesterday the arrest of Jaber Al-Banna, who is on the FBI's most wanted terrorist list.

Prosecutor Saeed Al-Akil requested from Judge Mohammed Al-Hakimi the arrest of Al-Banna, saying the man was already convicted and according to the law, he should be in jail.

Al-Banna made a surprising appearance in February when he attended trial session for him and 22 others charged after a series of attacks on oil facilities this year.

He denied the charges and said he “surrendered to President Ali Abdullah Saleh,” then walked out of the courtroom. He attended the second hearing, but the prosecution required that he pay bail before leaving the court. He presented the bail and left the court again.

Political observers believe the decision was taken in response to constant pressure from Washington, which has been heavily pressuring Sana'a to extradite Al-Banna and Jamal Al-Badwi, who was convicted in 2004 of plotting and helping carry out the USS Cole bombing in the port of Aden on Oct. 12, 2000. He received a death sentence in absentia, which was commuted to 15 years in prison.

Washington was very upset by the release of Al-Badwi in October 2007. The Yemeni government, however, said Al-Badwi “was never a free man.”

Since his release, the U.S. has demanded his extradition, which Yemen has said is not possible. Yemen's constitution bans extraditing Yemeni citizens to foreign countries.

The U.S. has tried to pressure Yemen in various ways. For example, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. agency that distributes foreign aid based on countries' track records for good government, halted a US $20.6 million grant to Yemen. Then, it postponed the future forum scheduled for December.

Following the latest attacks on the U.S. Embassy, Italian embassy and a foreigners' housing complex in Sana'a, the U.S. government ordered all non-emergency staff and their families out of Yemen.

Robert Mueller, the FBI director, paid a visit to Yemen on April 9 to investigate the attacks and to renew a request for the extradition of Badwi, according to a source in the U.S. Embassy.

The U.S. State Department report on terrorism in Yemen in 2007 which was recently disseminated has been very critical to Yemen. “Despite United States pressure, Yemen continued to implement a surrender program with lenient requirements for terrorists it could not apprehend, which often led to their relatively lax incarceration,” said the report.

“The Government of Yemen's capacity for stemming terrorism financing remained limited. On November 6, the government presented a terrorism financing bill to Parliament for approval, where it remained at year's end. On August 6, the UN agreed to a study at the behest of the Yemeni government to rescind the 2004 UN 1267 sanctions against Abdulmajeed Al-Zindani, who was associated with promoting and supporting Al-Qaeda. Yemen continued to take no action to bar his travel or freeze his assets in compliance with its UN obligations. Throughout the year, President Saleh continued to voice public support for al-Zindani and his Al-Iman University,” the report illustrated.