Yemen Islamists sentenced for “illegal” Israel contacts



On January 10, I reported on the arrests in Yemen of three individuals, who were accused by Yemen’s President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, of working for “an Islamist terrorist cell with links to Israeli intelligence”. Prosecutors told a Yemeni court that one of the arrestees, Bassam al-Haidari (a.k.a. Abu al-Ghaith), 26, communicated with Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert via email, offering to collaborate with Israeli authorities prior to the September 17, 2008, attack on the US Embassy in Yemen’s capital Sana’a. The intercepted emails allegedly show that al-Haidari wrote to Olmert “[w]e are the Organisation of Islamic Jihad and you are Jews, but you are honest, and we are ready to do anything”. The Yemeni government claims that Olmert (or, more likely, someone from Israeli intelligence who was forwarded al-Haidari’s message) actually wrote back telling al-Haidari “[w]e are ready to support you […] as an agent”. On Monday, a Yemeni court sentenced al-Haidari to death for “making illegal contact with the Zionist Jewish Israeli entity” (Yemen does not recognize Israel). Al-Haidari’s co-defendants, Imad al-Rimi, 23, and Ali al-Mahfal, 24, were given five-year and three-year prison terms. Speaking on behalf of Ehud Olmert, Mark Regev dismissed the Yemeni government’s allegations as “completely far-fetched”. However, as I explained last January, if true, Yemen’s accusations will not signify the first time that Israeli intelligence agencies have actively supported militant Islamist groups in the Middle East. Meanwhile, the three Yemeni defendants have vowed to appeal.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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