SAN`A, Yemen, (AP) – A Yemeni-American who is among the FBI’s most wanted terrorism suspects appeared in a Yemeni court Saturday and then walked free, an eyewitness said.
Jaber Elbaneh, 41, attended a session of the trial for him and 22 others charged in connection with a series of attacks on oil facilities.
“He entered the courtroom surrounded by four bodyguards, introduced himself to the judge then he left,” an eyewitness said speaking on condition of anonymity because of security concerns.
Footage of Elbaneh entering and leaving the court unimpeded also appeared on the Dubai-based pan-Arab satellite channel, al-Arabiya.
Security authorities have declined to comment on Elbaneh’s legal situation.
Elbaneh is a former resident of Lackawanna, N.Y. He left the United States in spring 2001 as part of a larger group that authorities said traveled to Osama bin Laden’s al-Farooq training camp in Afghanistan.
In May 2003, U.S. prosecutors charged Elbaneh in absentia with conspiring with a group known as the “Lackawanna Six” to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.
The U.S. asked Yemen to hand over Elbaneh and while he was subsequently arrested by authorities in January 2004, he was never extradited.
Elbaneh and 22 other prisoners broke out of their Yemeni jail in February 2006 by digging a tunnel to a nearby mosque. Elbaneh surrendered in May to Yemeni authorities but was never sent back to jail despite the ongoing trial.
The U.S. is offering up to $5 million for information leading to his arrest.
Al-Qaida has an active presence in Yemen despite government efforts to destroy the network. The group was blamed for the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors and an attack on a French oil tanker, the Limburg, that killed one person two years later.