- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 29, 2004

SAN’A, Yemen — A Yemeni judge sentenced two men to death by firing squad and four others to prison terms ranging from five to 10 years yesterday, the first convictions and sentences for the 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole, an attack blamed on Osama bin Laden’s terror network.

Saudi-born Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is in U.S. custody at an undisclosed location, and Jamal al-Badawi, a 35-year-old Yemeni, were sentenced to death for plotting, preparing and involvement in the bombing, which killed 17 U.S. sailors as their Virginia-based destroyer refueled in the southern Yemeni port of Aden.

Al-Nashiri, thought to be the mastermind of the Oct. 12, 2000, bombing, was tried in absentia, and it was not clear how the ruling would affect his detention. Four American officials who attended the sentencing refused to comment on the trial, as did U.S. Embassy officials in Yemen.

In reading the verdict, Judge Najib al-Qaderi pointed to the prosecution’s statement that al-Badawi and al-Nashiri bought the speedboat that the bombers used to ram the Cole.

“This verdict is an American one and unjust,” al-Badawi yelled from behind the bars of a courtroom cell after the judge sentenced him to death. “There are no human rights in the world, except for the Americans. All the Muslims in the world are being used to serve American interests.”

The United States announced al-Nashiri’s arrest in 2002. He was detained in the United Arab Emirates and transferred to American custody. U.S. officials believe he is a close associate of Saudi-born bin Laden, who masterminded the September 11, 2001, attacks.

In addition to the Cole attack, al-Nashiri is suspected of helping direct the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Death sentences routinely are meted out by Yemeni courts. Execution is carried out by a firing squad.

Mohammed al-Badawi, a sibling of the Yemeni condemned to death, said that his brother and the other Yemenis sentenced yesterday would appeal their sentences.

Al-Badawi’s father, also called Mohammed, urged Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to overturn the judge’s decision, which he contended was made “under heavy American pressure.”

“It is a ready-made verdict and we will appeal,” the father said.

The six men all were charged with belonging to al Qaeda and playing various roles in the attack on the Cole, which was carried out by suicide bombers Ibrahim al-Thawr and Hasaan al-Khamri, who went by the alias of Abdullah al-Misawa. The two Yemenis rammed an explosives-laden boat into the destroyer.

“The evidence obtained by the court affirms the collaboration of the defendants in the case … which harmed the country, its reputation and threatened its social stability and security,” Judge al-Qaderi told the court before issuing his sentences.

Judge al-Qaderi sentenced Fahd al-Qasa to 10 years in jail for filming the bombing, which left a gaping hole in the side of the destroyer. The ship was later repaired and returned to service.

The court heard evidence that al-Qasa had traveled to Afghanistan in 1997 to train at an al Qaeda terrorist camp, but it was not clear how long he spent there before returning to Yemen, a tribal-dominated country located on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula.

Maamoun Msouh received an eight-year prison term for delivering money used in preparing and executing the attack and playing a close role in assisting al-Badawi.

Ali Mohamed Saleh and Murad al-Sirouri were both sentenced to five years in prison for forging identification documents for al-Khamri.

Yemen, the ancestral home of bin Laden, cracked down on militant groups and aligned itself with the U.S.-led war on terror after the September 11, 2001, attacks carried out in New York and Washington by Arab plane hijackers.

The United States has since provided equipment to Yemen’s military to strengthen port and border controls and trained Yemeni security forces to battle militants in this Arab country, which has long been known for tolerating Islamic extremists.

The Cole underwent $250 million worth of repairs at a shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss. The Cole has completed an overseas deployment since the bombing and repairs, returning to Norfolk Naval Base in May after six months in the Mediterranean Sea.

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