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Saturday, January 16, 1999 Published at 12:30 GMT

World: Middle East

Fifth Briton charged in Yemen

Families of the men deny they have links to Islamic extremists

A fifth Briton detained in the Yemen has been formally charged with associating with an "armed gang" with the intention of committing violent atrocities in the country.

The BBC's Daniel Boettcher: "The men are protesting their innocence"
Ghulam Hussein, 25, from Luton, was charged on Friday afternoon at a police station in Aden, along with a French national.

The Yemeni authorities had earlier formally laid out charges against four of the five British men who were arrested in the country last month.

The men have been charged with being members of an "armed gang" for the "intention of committing murders in Yemen", their lawyer Badr Basunaid said.

Yemeni security sources alleged that the five have confessed to conspiring with Abu Hamza Al-Masri, a London-based Muslim extremist who has called for the overthrow of the country's government.

They said the five men were planning to blow up the British Consulate in Yemen on Christmas Day.

Mr Basunaid said he attended a short hearing at the Central Security Headquarters in Aden at which the men have been held since their arrest on 24 December.

[ image: Ghulam Hussein: Facing 'armed gang' charges]
Ghulam Hussein: Facing 'armed gang' charges
Mohsin Ghalain, 18, Shahid Butt, 33, Malik Nassar Harhra, 26, and Samad Ahmed, 21, stood handcuffed and were not allowed to speak to their lawyer.

The lawyer said police showed him weapons and bomb-making equipment which they alleged had been found on the men when they were arrested.

He said the men "looked all right but upset".

Protest planned

Thousands of the detainees' supporters are expected to gather for a demonstration in Birmingham to protest their innocence.

They say the men were tortured during questioning.

Rashad Yaqoob, of the men's British legal team and a member of the Association for Muslim lawyers, said: "The families' reaction is one of obvious pain but to some extent they were prepared for this as they were informed of the possible charges two days ago."

He said that Tuesday was the earliest possible start date for a trial due to the ongoing religious festival of Eid.

Mr Yaqoob appealed for the group to be moved to a proper jail, describing their current accommodation in police cells as squalid.

Yemen concern over UK-based 'terrorists'

The UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook had asked the Yemeni authorities on Thursday to give the men access to lawyers and either to charge or release the m.

During a telephone conversation with Mr Cook, the Yemeni Prime Minister Abdul-Karim al-Iryani is reported to have expressed concern about "acts of terrorism" by Islamic militants based in the UK.

The Yemeni news agency SABA said that Mr Iryani asked for clarification about comments by a British-based Islamic leader Abu Hamza al-Masri.

[ image: Detainee's wife Monica Davis says those arrested  have been mistreated]
Detainee's wife Monica Davis says those arrested have been mistreated
Mr Masri said on Friday that militants in Yemen might resort to killing foreigners without abducting them if an alleged kidnapper is executed in Yemen.

The kidnapper is one of three men charged in Yemen in connection with the deaths of four western hostages last month during a rescue attempt by the security forces.

Mr Cook also thanked the Yemeni Government for its help in obtaining the release of a British oil worker kidnapped last week in a separate incident.

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