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Yemeni Jew killer ordered to pay blood money

A Yemeni court ordered a man convicted of gunning down a Jewish father-of-nine to pay 27,500 dollars in blood money, sparing the man from a death sentence as he was "mentally abnormal."

world Updated: Mar 02, 2009 15:17 IST

A Yemeni court on Monday ordered a man convicted of gunning down a Jewish father-of-nine to pay 27,500 dollars in blood money, sparing the man from a death sentence as he was "mentally abnormal."

In a case that has stoked fear in the country's tiny Jewish community, Abdul Aziz Yahya al-Abdi, a 39-nine-year-old Muslim Yemeni, remains in detention after admitting in December to shooting dead Masha Yaeish al-Nahari in the town of Raydah in Amran province.

Nahari's widow and father said they will appeal the sentence and call for the death penalty.

Abdi, a former air force pilot, had repeatedly said he carried out the murder after warning Yemeni Jews that he would kill them unless they converted to Islam, the court heard during his trial last month.

The prosecution had called for a death sentence to be imposed but the court opted for the blood money sentence after medical reports showed Abdi was "mentally abnormal", an AFP correspondent reported.

Amran is home to some 250 of Yemen's remaining Jewish minority of about 400 people.

As the court session got underway on Monday, the authorities sealed off the court building for fear of a violent backlash in the village north of the capital Sanaa.

When the verdict was read out, the dozen people present inside the small courtroom expressed relief, except for the victim's widow and father.

Police hurried to empty the courtroom as soon as the trial was adjourned and prevented journalists from speaking to people present.

The convicted man was calm throughout the session, reiterating earlier remarks that he "has given the Jews the choice of converting to Islam, leaving Yemen or being killed."

Abdi killed his wife five years ago but was spared prison when he was ruled to be of unsound mind

Nahari's father said earlier that Abdi accosted his son, with whom he was not acquainted, near the victim's home and insisted that he convert to Islam.

Nahari, who taught Hebrew in one of Raydah's two Jewish schools, asked to be left alone but Abdi then opened fire with a submachine gun until he was riddled with bullets, the bereaved father said.

In 1948, the country's Jewish community numbered some 60,000. But in the three years following the creation of the Jewish state that year, more than 48,000 emigrated to Israel.

The community continued to dwindle in subsequent decades and by the early 1990s it numbered only around 1,000 people.

The lifting of a longstanding travel ban in 1993 sparked a fresh exodus.

Ten Yemeni Jews moved to Israel last month after Nahari's murder and a series of other attacks that triggered fear among the Jewish community.

Among the new immigrants who landed at Ben Gurion international airport was Said Ben Yisrael, who heads the Jewish community in Raydah.