Dual US-Yemeni national accused of links to French contractor's killer
A Yemeni court on Tuesday charged radical cleric and dual US-Yemeni national Anwar al-Awlaqi in absentia with having ties to al Qaeda and with being linked to the man accused of murdering a French energy contractor outside Sanaa last month.
AFP - Yemeni prosecutors on Tuesday accused radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaqi of having ties with Al-Qaeda, incitement to kill foreigners and of being linked to the murderer of a French national in Yemen.
Awlaqi, who holds both Yemeni and US citizenship, and his relative, Othman al-Awlaqi, were both charged in absentia in a Yemeni court with "incitement to kill foreigners and members of security services."
The charges arose during the trial of Hisham Mohammed Assem, a Yemeni, who was in the court on Tuesday to face charges of killing French energy contractor Jacques Spagnolo near Sanaa last month.
The court action comes as Yemen is in the spotlight after parcel bombs to the United States were traced to the ancestral homeland of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Two parcels addressed to Jewish institutions in Chicago and containing the explosive PETN hidden in ink toner cartridges were uncovered on Thursday in Britain and Dubai, en route to the United States.
Awlaqi has not immediately been linked to the parcel bombs, which US officials believe is the work of Saudi militant Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, a suspected Al-Qaeda bombmaker.
But US officials have long accused the cleric of instigating "terrorism" from Yemen, where he is believed to be hiding in a remote area of the Shabwa province controlled by his Awaliq tribe.
Prosecutors in the Sanaa court, which specialises in terrorism cases, on Tuesday said Awlaqi had corresponded with Assem for months, encouraging him to kill foreigners.
All three men are also accused of "forming an armed gang to carry out criminal acts and to target foreigners and security forces on behalf of Al-Qaeda."
Assem denied the charges, told the court he was tortured and asked for a lawyer.
The trial was adjourned until Saturday.
Spagnolo, a contractor working for energy group OMV, was shot at the company's compound in Sanaa on October 6, the same day a British embassy car was targeted by a rocket attack that wounded one person.
Assem, a security guard at the compound, was overpowered and arrested.
Two days later, the defence ministry said Assem had probably acted for personal reasons in what was a criminal matter.
However, it stressed that the conclusions were preliminary.
A 65-year-old Scot, said to be OMV's security chief, was also wounded in the attack, the statement said.
At the time, OMV said it saw "no political background for the action taken by the Yemeni security guard."
Earlier this year US President Barack Obama's administration authorised the targeted killing of Awlaqi.
In a May video posted on the Internet, Awlaqi urged all Muslims serving in the US army to follow the example of Major Nidal Hasan -- an army psychiatrist -- accused of killing 13 comrades at Fort Hood base in Texas last November.
"What Nidal Hasan did was heroic... and I call on all Muslims serving in the US army to follow his path," Awlaqi said in a video posted on jihadist websites, the US monitoring group SITE reported.
In the video, posted by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), he also defended Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian student accused of the botched Christmas Day attack and said Sanaa is collaborating with Washington to attack Yemenis.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said at the time: "We are actively trying to find him and many others throughout the world that seek to do our country and to do our interests great harm."
US Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Adviser John Brennan accused Awlaqi of instigating "terrorism."
"Mr. Awlaqi is a problem. He's clearly a part of Al-Qaeda in (the) Arabian Peninsula. He's not just a cleric. He is in fact trying to instigate terrorism," he told CNN