Page last updated at 18:30 GMT, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 19:30 UK

Yemeni rebels get death penalty

Shia rebel
The rebels shouted slogans when the sentence was read out

Ten Shia rebels have been sentenced to death in Yemen for involvement in clashes with the army last year.

Five more were given 15 years in prison in the latest trial of those captured during fighting north of Sanaa, in which hundreds were killed or wounded.

The government began a new campaign to try to crush the rebels in August 2009.

The Shia group say they are combating marginalisation by the Sunni majority, but are accused by the government of seeking a return to Shia clerical rule.

The insurgents first took up arms against the government in 2004.

Operation Scorched Earth

Upon hearing Tuesday's verdict, the defendants shouted anti-American and anti-Israeli slogans and "Victory for Islam."

They were found guilty of criminal activity, armed resistance to the authorities and belonging to a terrorist organisation.

The BBC's Yolande Knell in Cairo says the latter charge is usually reserved for al-Qaeda cases, but it comes at a time of increased tension.

The government's offensive, known as Operation Scorched Earth, has precipitated a wave of intense fighting.

Aid agencies say tens of thousands of people have been displaced.

Two other rebels from the group were handed death sentences this month. About 90 others are awaiting trial.

The Zaidi Shia community are an overall minority in Yemen but make up the majority in the north of the country near the border with Saudi Arabia.

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