Yemeni judge gains reputation abroadAl-Hitar goes to Cairo [Archives:2004/800/Local News]

December 20 2004

Judge Hamoud Al-Hitar, Chairman of Yemen's Dialogue Committee, is in Cairo this week to participate in a meeting of the World Health Organization's regional bureau on public health and gender issues.
Al-Hitar said he will be involved in discussions concerning health, gender and the role of Muslim religious scholars.
“I will participate with several other religious scholars to discuss general health issues in the Middle East,” said Al-Hitar. “Muslim scholars will share their own opinions on these issues.”
Al-Hitar has also accepted an invitation to travel to France next month to share the Dialogue Committee's experience of working with extremists and sympathizers of terrorist groups to persuade them to turn away from violence. The committee focuses on convincing suspects to accept tolerance and people living together peacefully.
Later this month, the Dialogue Committee will start dialogue with a new group of suspects. Al-Hitar said that the group will include around 500 who were once followers of Hussein Al-Houthi, a radical cleric who fought with Yemeni forces from July until September this year in the northern province of Saada.
At least 600 soldiers and Al-Houthi followers were killed in the fighting. There will be a small group of suspects linked to Al-Qaeda international terrorist network in the next round of dialogue.
The Yemeni government released 113 detainees in November suspected of being a part of Al-Qaeda, including at least five who were accused of being involved in the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. The suspects were not charged with any crimes and signed a commitment to follow the constitution and laws and refrain from violence.
Last August fifteen suspects convicted of being involved in the attack on the USS Cole at the port of Aden, which killed 17 US sailors, were not released. Five terrorist suspects were found guilty of being involved in the bombing of the French oil tanker off the coast of Yemen in 2002 that killed one crew member.
Countries from around the world have shown interest in the method being used by the Dialogue Committee. Al-Hitar traveled to Great Britain last February and May to share his experience holding dialogue with suspects of radical Islamic groups. He was also invited last spring to attend the conference of Higher Council for Islamic Affairs in Cairo.