San'a, Nov 3 (ANI): Facing intense U.S. pressure to crack down on al-Qaida, Yemen has reportedly put an American-born radical cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, on trial in absentia on Tuesday on charges of plotting to kill foreigners and being a member of the terrorist group.
According to Fox News, it was Yemen's first formal legal action against al-Awlaki and the court brought the same charges against two other men.
Yemen is facing expreme pressure from the US following the interception of two bombs in Dubai and Britain last week. The U.S. suspects Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, an offshoot of Osama bin Laden's network, was behind the plot.
Prosecutor Ali al-Saneaa announced the charges against al-Awlaki as part of a trial against another man, Hisham Assem, who was accused of killing a Frenchman in an October 6 attack at an oil firm compound where he worked as a security guard after receiving Internet messages from al-Awlaki.
According to the prosecutor, Assem had acknowledged that he received Internet messages from al-Awlaki inciting him to kill foreigners he was working with, and told interrogators that al-Awlaki convinced him that foreigners are "occupiers," and sent him audiotapes with sermons justifying the killing of foreigners when he hesitated.
Assem, however, denied all the charges and said he was tortured and forced to give false confessions.
Assem was present in court, but al-Awlaki and a third suspect, his cousin Osman al-Awlaki, were charged in absentia. The hearing was held under tight security at a courthouse in downtown San'a, Yemen's capital.
Thirty-nine-year-old was born in New Mexico and is based in Yemen.
According to the U.S. investigators, al-Awlaki is linked to the Army psychiatrist accused of last year's shooting spree at the Fort Hood in Texas military base that killed 13 people.They also allege that he helped prepare Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab for the attempt to bomb an airliner over Detroit last Christmas and was also connected to the failed bombing in New York City's Times Square in May, the report said.
U.S. officials have said they would like to prosecute al-Awlaki in America, particularly if they can get a plea and cooperation deal from the failed Christmas bombing suspect Abdulmutallab, but no decision has been made.
Charging al-Awlaki in the U.S. would also make it easier for the U.S. to demand he be turned over. However, Yemeni officials have said they will not turn al-Awlaki over to the U.S. because, as a Yemeni citizen, he must be prosecuted there, the report added. (ANI)