Radical cleric al-Awlaqi charged in Yemen

YEMENI prosecutors have 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.

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 today 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, 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.

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