Two militants sentenced to death for USS Cole attackConvicts describe verdict as “unjust” and promise to appeal [Archives:2004/778/Front Page]

October 4 2004

Mohammed Al-Qadhi
The Sana'a Penal Court sentenced two al-Qaeda militants to death on Wednesday and sentenced four others to prison terms ranging from five to ten years, for the bombing of the U.S. destroyer Cole, which killed 17 sailors in 2000.
The pair, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Jamal al-Badawi, were both sentenced to death for orchestrating, plotting, preparing and involvement in the bombing of the US warship.
Judge Najib al-Qaderi sentenced Fahd al-Qiss'e to 10 years in jail for filming the bombing. The court said that al-Qiss'e had traveled to Afghanistan in 1997 to train at an al-Qaeda terrorist camp.
The fourth convict, Mamoon Amswah, received an eight-year prison term for delivering money used in preparing and executing the attack and playing a close role in assisting al-Badawi.
Ali Mohamed Murakab and Murad al-Sirouri, were both sentenced to five years in prison for forging identification documents for Hasan al-Khameri under the name of Abdullah Ahmad Khaled al-Misawa, one of the suicide bombers.
The six men were all charged with belonging to al-Qaeda and playing various roles in the attack on the Cole, which was carried out by suicide bombers Ibrahim al-Thawr, Hasan al-Khamiri, and a third unnamed person who rammed an explosive-laden boat into the destroyer. Al-Thawr and al-Khameri traveled to Bangkok and received $36,000 from al-Nasheri for the terrorist operation. The court judge said it was clear to him that the six militants were guilty of setting up an armed gang to carry out terrorist acts, including the attack on the USS Cole.
Upon hearing the sentence the six defendants broke into cries of “Allahu Akbar”.
“This is an unjust verdict, this is an American verdict,” screamed Jamal al-Badawi when he was handed the death penalty. He said that the court, the prosecution and the government did not have a hand in the verdict which was “totally American”. His father also condemned the verdict, appealing to President Ali Abdullah Saleh for leniency in the sentencing of his son. “the courts verdict was already passed three years ago,” he screamed while talking to reporters outside the courtroom.
For his part, the defense lawyer Abdulaziz al-Samawi was shocked by the verdict, as he had already announced during the final hearing that he expected his clients to be convicted, but not in the way the prosecution wanted. He described the verdict as “unjust” and that the defendants “were used as a scapegoat as the prosecution failed to find the real perpetrators.”
Khaled, the brother of al-Qiss'e, told the Yemen Times that the verdict was “unfair.” “We never expected such a sentence. We expected that they would be acquitted as the prosecution throughout the tribunal failed to present any evidence to convict them. It was very clear that the court was influenced and pressured by foreign forces,” he added angrily, pointing out that the verdict will be appealed.
During the hearings defense lawyer Abdul Aziz al-Samawi presented to the court judge an official letter from the former Interior Minister, Hussein Arab, instructing security authorities to give “safe passage to Sheik Mohammed Omar al-Harazi, (an alias of al-Nasheri) with three bodyguards without being searched or intercepted. All security forces are instructed to cooperate with him and facilitate his missions.” The order was valid from April 2000 until the end of 2000.
The lawyer asked that Arab should be questioned on the official letter but the judge was heedless to his request, despite the fact that it accepted the letter as evidence.
Last month the same penal court sentenced 15 defendants to terms ranging from three years to death for various terror plots and attacks. Those imprisoned for 10 years included five supporters of Al-Qaeda for the 2002 bombing of the French supertanker Limburg in an attack similar to that on the Cole. The militant Hizam Mujali was sentenced to death after being convicted of fatally shooting a police officer at a checkpoint.