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Monday, August 9, 1999 Published at 13:47 GMT 14:47 UK

World: Middle East

Britons convicted of Yemen bomb plot

Guilty of "grave" crimes - but will appeal

Eight Britons and two Algerians have been convicted of planning a terrorist bombing campaign in Yemen.

The BBC's Duncan Kennedy: "They said they were tortured into confessing"
Five of the Britons were jailed by a Yemeni court for up to seven years, but three are due to return home after being released on time served.

During the trial, the prosecution said the bomb plots were part of a campaign by militants to drive western influence out of Yemen and set up an Islamic state.

All the men were found guilty of forming an armed gang, and nine were convicted of planning to bomb the British consulate, an Anglican church and a Swiss-owned hotel in Yemen.

Torture claims rejected

The BBC's Geeta Guru-Murthy looks into the backround of the case
Judge Jamal Mohammad Omar, sitting in court in Aden, a southern port city in the Arab state, described their crimes as "grave".

He said the men had "associated to form an armed gang intending to carry out murderous acts of sabotage and terrorism".

The BBC's Geeta Guru-Murthy: "Relatives are clearly upset"
And he rejected claims from the men, who have protested their innocence throughout their six-month trial, that they had confessed under torture.

The judge told a packed courthouse: "The court did not find any relationship between the defendants' claims of being tortured and their statements which were presented by the prosecution to the court."

Three due to be freed

Mohsin Ghalain, 18, and Malik Harhra, 26, were both jailed for seven years.

Shahid Butt, 33, and Sarmad Ahmed, 21, were sentenced to five years. Mohamed Kamel, 17, was sentenced to three years.

[ image: Mohsin Ghalain: Seven years]
Mohsin Ghalain: Seven years
Shaz Nabi, 20, and Ayad Hussein, 24, and Ghulam Hussen, 25, were due to return home because of the time they have already spent in custody. Hussein had already been bailed due to ill health.

The two Algerians, Amer Rahman and Kamal Sageer, were each jailed for five years.

As the sentences were announced, the casually-dressed defendants, who had grown beards during their eight months in captivity, shouted "Allahu Akhbar" (God is great).

'Travesty of justice'

Defence lawyers immediately said they would appeal the verdict, and called the proceedings unfair, politically motivated and an abuse of human rights.

Click here for a timeline of the trial

And supporters of the men said they were "shocked and shattered" by the verdict.

Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader of The Muslim Parliament in Britain, said the trial was a "travesty of justice," and said they would continue with their campaign.

"This is a victory of evil against justice," he said. "These boys are innocent".

[ image: Malik Harha: Seven years]
Malik Harha: Seven years
In a family press conference held after sentencing, relatives of the men called the trial a "joke" and said they "never had a chance".

Under Yemeni justice, the men have the right to appeal to the Court of Appeal and then on to the Supreme Court.

Links to militants

The prosecution claims that the London-based Muslim fundamentalist Abu Hamza sent the men to Yemen to carry out terrorist attacks. Hamza is the father of Kamel and step-father of Ghalain.

[ image: Abu Hamza: London-based fundamentalist]
Abu Hamza: London-based fundamentalist
When the men were arrested in December, the prosecution said authorities found rocket-propelled grenades, TNT explosives, anti-tank rockets, mines, laptops and communications equipment with the defendants.

The prosecution also claims that the defendants had trained in a military camp run by Islamic militant Zein Al-Abidine al-Mihdar.

In May, he was sentenced to death for his part in the kidnapping - four days after the men were arrested - of 16 Western tourists.

Four of the tourists, three Britons and one Australian, were shot dead during a gun battle between the kidnappers and the Yemeni authorities.

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09 Aug 99 | Middle East
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Internet Links

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Justice for Britons in Yemen Campaign

Yemen - ArabNet

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