SAN’A, Yemen, (AP) – A Yemeni court convicted, yesterday 32 al-Qaeda suspects of planning attacks on oil and gas installations in the country, sentencing them to prison terms of up to 15 years. Four others were acquitted.
Six of those convicted remain at large and were tried in absentia.
The prosecution had charged the group, all from Yemen, with forming an armed gang and planning attacks against oil installations with rocket-propelled grenades in September 2006.
The trial opened in March and authorities did not disclose when or how they were arrested. Three of them claimed they were tortured and forced to sign confessions, according to Yemeni official news agency SABA.
Among those who claimed duress was Abu Bakr al-Rubaei, the top suspect. He had allegedly confessed that he and others planned to carry out terrorist operations targeting Western and U.S. interests and homes of foreign diplomats in the country.
Most of those convicted were sentenced to terms ranging from 10 to 15 years in prison. Al-Rubaei received and eight-year term.
Al-Qaeda has an active presence in Yemen, the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden, despite government efforts to fight the terror network. Al-Qaeda was blamed for the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Aden that killed 17 American sailors and the attack on a French oil tanker that killed one person two years later
A poor, tribal country at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen aligned itself with the U.S.-led war on terrorism after the Sept. 11 attacks. But many diplomats and outside experts have raised questions about Yemen’s cooperation and inability to control tribal areas.