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A group of eight Britons and two Algerians recently arrested in Yemen and accused of plotting a series of bombings (see December 23, 1998 and January 27, 1999) confesses to the plot. However, they will later claim the confessions were obtained by torture. Offered a deal in which they plead guilty to the charges and can then go home, they reject it and opt to be tried in Yemen. However, a condition of the deal was that they testify that leading British radical Abu Hamza al-Masri was behind the plot.
Shahid Butt, an associate of Abu Hamza, shouts as he arrives in court, “They are going to beat us and kill us for denying their ridiculous charges, so help us.” He also says they were starved of food, deprived of sleep, and given electric shocks with a cattle prod.
Mohsin Ghalain, Abu Hamza’s stepson, says that every time he tried to sleep on the concrete floor he was kicked awake to face more questioning. In addition, bottles were stuck into his rectum, he was given electric shocks, and a gun was held to his head. His legs, wrists and ankles are scarred.
Another defendant says he was sexually abused.
Malik Nasser points to bruises on his arms in court.
Some will describe “being trussed up like chickens” and suspended from a pole of wood for hours at a time.
At their trial, the Yemeni authorities will produce some evidence not obtained through torture, such as weapons they say were found on the plotters. In addition, they will find a video of Ghalain and Mostafa holding Kalashnikovs during a trip to Albania. Despite the apparent credibility of the allegations of torture, the British media and public will not show great interest in the case, thinking the defendants are actually guilty. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 177-182)
Ten alleged operatives of the Islamic Army of Aden (IAA) go on trial in Aden, Yemen. Six of the men were arrested in December (see December 23, 1998), whereas four are arrested on the first day of the trial (see January 27, 1999).
Defendants - The men, eight Britons and two Algerians who previously lived in Britain, are linked to radical British imam Abu Hamza al-Masri, an informer for the British security services (see Early 1997). For example, they include his son Mohammed Kamel Mostafa, his stepson Mohsin Ghalain, and Shahid Butt, an aide. The men initially confess, but later claim that the confessions were beaten out of them (see January 1999). Abu Hamza has numerous links to the IAA and spoke on the phone to its operational commander during a kidnapping organized to secure the release of the first six men captured (see (June 1998), October 1998, December 27, 1998, December 28-29, 1998, and December 28, 1998 and After).
British Links - The trial focuses on the men’s connections to Abu Hamza, as the Yemeni government places the blame for its domestic troubles on outside influences. The first sentence the prosecutor utters is, “This offence started in London in the offices of SoS [Supporters of Shariah] which is owned by Abu Hamza and who exports terrorism to other countries.”
Trial Descends into Chaos - The first day sets the pattern for the proceedings. The men’s translator mistakenly says the prosecutor is seeking the death sentence, and the court descends into uproar, leading to an adjournment after just 50 minutes. According to authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory, the trial is further marred by “constant interruptions, endless adjournments, inexplicable delays, and time-wasting.” However, a “drip-feed” of incriminating information from the men’s confessions and the evident links between Abu Hamza and the IAA turns the tide in favor of the prosecution.
Men Sentenced - All the men are found guilty. Ghalain and Malik Nasser are given the heaviest sentences of seven years. Butt gets five years for being a member of a terrorist gang, but Kamel only gets three. O’Niell and McGrory will comment: “Every few minutes the judgement was punctuated by mentions of Abu Hamza, who the court was satisfied was deserving of most of the blame. That day his name, and not those of his followers, dominated the local headlines.” (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 177-184)
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