This decision upholds a ruling from July, which cited a lack of evidence that the men intended to carry out attacks inside Yemen. In a trial allegedly meant to demonstrate Yemen’s sincerity as an ally in the “War on Terror,” the presiding judge in that case refused to find fault with the fact that several of the defendants had admitted to going to Iraq to fight the US forces there, because “Islamic Sharia law permits jihad against occupiers.” In other words, it’s fine that you’re jihadists actively looking to kill people; just do your thing somewhere else.
In the original case, the judge’s comments obviously call into question his impartiality with respect to deciding to acquit the men; the ruling from the appeals court begs the question of how widely his sentiments are shared within the Yemeni legal system, and the answer is almost certainly not good.
“Yemen Court Acquits 5 Saudis,” by Khaled Al-Mahdi for Arab News:
SANAA, 5 November 2006 — A Yemeni appeals court yesterday upheld the acquittal by a lower court of 19 men, including five Saudis, of planning attacks against Americans in Yemen, citing lack of evidence.
The court however convicted four Yemenis and two Saudis of forging ID documents and gave them prison terms of two to three years.
A state security court threw out the charges against the 19 men on July 8, saying the prosecution had failed to prove its case that the men had formed an armed gang to attack US citizens in Yemen.
Among those convicted of forgery was the alleged leader of the group, Ali Abdullah Hussein Al-Harthi, a 26-year-old Yemeni. He received a three-year jail term.
Saudis Muhsin Mubarak ibn Obaid, 19, and Muhammad Falah Al-Qahtani, 22, were ordered released as they have already spent nearly two years in detention. The other three Saudis — Saad Abdul-Ghani Al-Bloushi, 26, Muhammad Musaifir Al-Quraishi, 27, and Majid Ahmad Al-Zahrani, 30 — were acquitted of all charges and ordered released.