Yemen Britons on murder charge

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The Independent Online
THE BRITONS held in Yemen on suspicion of being Islamist terrorists were last night formally charged with planning to cause "murder, explosions and destruction".

Four of the five men were charged under article 133 of the Yemeni penal code which accused them of "association with an armed gang with a criminal plan". The other Briton was due to be charged imminently.

The men's Yemeni lawyer, Badr Basunaid, said he been allowed to see his clients when they were charged, the first time he has been able to speak to them since they were arrested on 23 December.

At a meeting at the Central Security Headquarters in Aden, police showed him at least one basket containing TNT explosive and evidence of two rockets and anti-tank grenades. They claimed that these had been found with the five men.

"The four men were brought in and formally charged with being members of an armed gang and for intending to commit murder in Yemen," Mr Basunaid said.

He said that Mohsen Ghalain, 18, of London, and Shahid Butt, 33, Malik Nassar Harhra, 26, Samad Ahmed, 21, all of Birmingham, stood handcuffed while the procedures were carried out. Ghulam Hussein, 25, of Luton, was due to charged within hours, along with a sixth man, Mr Basunaid added.

The men's British solicitor, Gareth Peirce, said last night she was convinced her clients had been tortured during their time in prison. Ms Peirce has demanded that the three Scotland Yard detectives in Yemen, investigating the murders of three British tourists in December, are not allowed to question her clients. She said the Home Office had written to her yesterday agreeing to her request.

The charging of the men comes against a backdrop of growing tension between the British and Yemeni authorities and an increasing war of words. After reports which claimed the Britons had confessed that they were sent to blow up Western targets by a north London Imam, Abu Hamza, the government in Sanaa accused Britain of harbouring terrorists.

British anti-terrorist sources last night confirmed that while they had "looked at" Mr Hamza, who is based at the North London Central Mosque in Finsbury Park, they do not consider him a danger.

Mr Hamza yesterday by claimed on Qatari television that if the three Yemenis arrested for the tourist killings were executed, there would be more deaths. "I expect that matters will get worse. If Abu Hassan [the kidnapper's leader] is killed," he said.

Apparently on the strength of this, the Yemeni Prime Minister, Abdul Karim al-Iryani, expressed his concern to the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, about "acts of terrorism" by militants based in Britain.

Meanwhile, one of the British tourists murdered in Yemen three weeks ago after being kidnapped while on an adventure holiday was buried in Edinburgh.

Around 150 friends and relatives of Ruth Williamson, 34, including some of the surviving Yemen tour party, paid their last respects at the ceremony. At the service at Warriston Crematorium, Ms Williamson's uncle, Douglas Main, her closest surviving relative, recalled her "sense of fun and humour".