SANAA, May 3 (Reuters) Yemen's state security court sentenced a senior al Qaeda suspect to 37 months in prison today for funding militants in the Arab state.
Mohammad Hamdi al-Ahdal, named as al Qaeda's number two in Yemen, was charged with forming an armed gang, financing al Qaeda militants and involvement in the deaths of 18 Yemeni soldiers.
Judge Najib al-Qaderi said Ahdal was convicted of ''gathering funds and distributing them to a number of people accused of belonging to al Qaeda''. He did not mention the rest of the charges, and it was not clear whether Ahdal would face further sentencing later.
The 35-year-old Ahdal, also known as Abu Asem al-Macci, had denied all charges.
''Praise God (but) the trial is unjust,'' said the convict from behind the bars of a cage at the court room after the sentence was passed.
Legal sources said Ahdal can appeal against the ruling.
Ahdal, who has been in custody for almost three years, was an aide of al Qaeda's leader in Yemen, Ali Qaed Senyan al-Harthi, who was killed by a missile fired by an unmanned CIA drone in Yemen in 2002.
Both men were key suspects in the 2000 bombing of the U.S.
warship Cole in Aden port.
The prosecutor told the state security court that Ahdal, who was arrested in 2003, had received around ,000 from al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to purchase arms and explosives.
Yemen, the ancestral home of bin Laden, joined the US-led war on terrorism after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States and has launched a crackdown on Islamic militants.
REUTERS CH PM1340