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32 suspects handed over up to 15 yrs for planning attacks

A Yemeni court convicted today 32 Al-Qaida suspects of planning suicide attacks on oil and gas installations in the country and sentenced them to up to 15 years imprisonment.

world Updated: Nov 07, 2007 18:39 IST

A Yemeni court convicted today 32 Al-Qaida suspects of planning suicide attacks on oil and gas installations in the country and sentenced them to up to 15 years imprisonment.

The group on trial included 36 Yemenis but four were acquitted of the charges.

Six of the group remains at large, all top suspects who were tried in absentia. Three of them were sentenced to 15 years in prison each, another one got 12 years and the remaining two 10 years each.

The prosecution had charged the group with "forming an armed gang aimed at carrying out sabotage attacks." They were accused of planning to attack oil installations in the Marib and Hadaramout provinces with rocket-propelled grenades in September 2006.

The trial opened in March with 30 defendants in custody who all pleaded innocence to the charges. It was not clear when or how they were arrested. Three of them claimed they were tortured and forced to sign confessions, according to Yemeni official news agency SABA.

Among those who claimed duress was Abu Bakr al-Rubaei, the top suspect among the 30 in custody. He had allegedly confessed that he and others planned to carry out terrorist operations targeting Western and US interests and homes of foreign diplomats in the country. He also told the court during a hearing that he was asked by some Jihadi groups to become involved in attacks in Yemen and Iraq, but that he refused.