Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pentagon Seeks Death Penalty Against USS Cole Bombing Suspect

April 20, 2011

The Defense Department announced Wednesday that it is seeking the death penalty against a Guantanamo Bay detainee in connection with the USS Cole bombing in Yemen more than a decade ago.

Military prosecutors have re-filed terrorism and murder charges against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, of Saudi Arabia, the first case to move forward since President Obama ordered military trials to resume at Guantanamo Bay. The charges allege that Al-Nashiri led the planning and preparation for the USS Cole attack that blew a hole in the ship, killing 17 sailors and wounding another 40.

Al-Nashiri was first charged in 2008, but those charges were later withdrawn after President Obama took office, as his administration undertook a sweeping review of the Guantanamo Bay detention program. Al-Nashiri had been waterboarded during the Bush administration.

The Defense Department said Wednesday that the suspect will now be charged with a number of severe counts, including murder in violation of the law of war, terrorism and attempted murder.

The charges are referred to the Convening Authority for Military Commissions, which presides over the war crimes tribunals at the U.S. base in Cuba.

The USS Cole case had already been designated for a military trial by Attorney General Eric Holder in November 2009. But because the process stalled for political reasons, it took more than 17 months for the case to move forward.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the professed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, will also be tried before a military commission. Holder had planned originally to try Mohammed in U.S. Federal Court in New York, but Congress intervened and made it illegal to bring suspected terrorist prisoners into the United States.

Change made via ballot boxes, Saleh says

SANA'A, April 20 (Saba) - President Ali Abdullah Saleh accentuated on Wednesday that power should be reached via election.

During his meeting with tens of thousands of women from different governorates, President Saleh said that "change should be made via ballot boxes and based on the constitutional legitimacy".

"Those who want the chair of power have to get it through ballot boxes" the president said, pointing that each party recognized how many members it has.

Yemeni people, including women, announced his commitment to the constitutional legitimacy and his rejection of anarchy, coups, blocking roads, disloyalty, conspiracy and falsehood.

Saleh accented that he will keep on his commitment to the constitutional legitimacy and will not accept plots and coups.

The President voiced his appreciation of the women's national feelings that show loyalty and enthusiasm.

In return, the women expressed their support for the unity, security and stability of Yemen and refusal of all kind of violence, sabotage and tension atmosphere created by the Joint Meeting Parties (JMPs).

They called on the JMPs leaders to come to the dialogue table to address all issues and disagreements, appealing them not to drag the country into division or bloodshed.

They also voiced their appreciation of the president's efforts and initiatives to tackle the impasse peacefully and via dialogue, valuing highly the care and support of the president to women throughout the country.

Yemeni Officials Consider ‘30 + 60’ Plan to End Crisis

By Donna Abu-Nasr

(Updates with child casualties in 10th paragraph. See EXTRA and MET for more on the regional unrest.)

April 20 (Bloomberg) -- Discussions to end a political crisis in Yemen are centered around a plan that would have President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down within 30 days of it being announced and guarantee immunity for him, his family and long-time aides, a Yemeni official said.

Under the so-called 30 + 60 plan, Saleh would transfer his powers to a deputy and elections would be held 60 days after that, according to Ahmed al-Soufi, secretary general for the Yemeni Institute for the Development of Democracy and a media affairs adviser in the presidential palace.

The threat is that an escalation of the standoff may lead to more violence in the country, or a deadly military divide such as the one in Libya. At the same time, rising social unrest may strengthen al-Qaeda as it seeks to use Yemen, the poorest Arab nation, as a base from which to destabilize neighboring Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest exporter of crude.

A weak central government in Yemen risks mirroring the situation in Somalia, across the Gulf of Aden, where there hasn’t been a functioning administration since 1991. Somalia has become a breeding ground for pirates who attack shipping lanes.

There have been no public comments on the plan from Saleh or opposition leaders. Al-Soufi said officials from the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait, will travel to Yemen next week to facilitate negotiations.

Democratic Father

Al-Soufi said one option that supporters of the president have put forward is for Saleh to oversee the process to hold elections. “He would be the father of this democratic process,” he said in a telephone interview from Sana’a, the capital.

Protests in Yemen calling for an end to Saleh’s rule are in their third month.

Under Yemen’s state of emergency, the first since a 1994 civil war between the north and south, public gatherings are banned, the media is subject to restrictions, and the constitution suspended.

The U.S. has backed Saleh, a key ally in the fight against al-Qaeda, with $300 million a year of military and economic aid.

A total of 109 protesters have been killed since Feb. 11, according to Majed al-Madhaji, a spokesman at the Arabic Sisters Forum for Human Rights in Sana’a. Unicef, the United Nations’ Children’s Fund, said at least 26 children have been killed since early February, according to a statement released today.

Dozens of lawmakers abandoned Saleh’s ruling General People’s Congress to protest the violence, joining a list of defectors that includes Cabinet ministers, diplomats, tribal leaders and senior military officers such as Ali Muhsin al- Ahmar, commander of the First Armored Division.

Yemen’s conflict with Shiite Muslim Houthis in the north of the nation has in the past drawn in Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim-led monarchy that last month sent troops to help suppress a Shiite-led uprising in another neighbor, Bahrain.

Motorcycle gunmen strafe Yemen protest

SANAA, Apr 20, 2011 (AP) — Gunmen on motorcycles sped by and opened fire on hundreds of demonstrators camped out in the early hours of the morning Wednesday in a Yemeni port city, killing one and wounding several protesters, an opposition activist said.
Radwan al-Obisi said the protesters in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida were demanding the ouster of longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh when they were attacked by thugs hired by the ruling party.
The two months of anti-government turmoil in this impoverished nation is threatening to spiral out of control as nearly daily protests across the country are being violently suppressed by security forces.
More than 120 people have been killed since demonstrations, inspired by uprisings elsewhere in the Arab world, erupted in Yemen calling for the end of Saleh's more than three decades in power.
Like much of the of the country Tuesday, Hodeida saw thousands march through the streets, tearing down posters of Saleh, before they were dispersed by police. A number of cities also now feature protesters camping out in main squares, imitating the iconic sit-in at Egypt's Tahrir Square.
The violence has been especially acute in the southern port city of Aden, once the capital of an independent south Yemen and a hotbed of separatist sentiment.
A policeman was killed and four others wounded after clashes with gunmen believed to be associated with the southern dissidents, said witnesses, as hundreds of protesters blocked main roads with rocks and burning tires.
Yemen is plagued by dwindling water and oil resources and a basic inability to feed its population, as well as a tribal rebellion in the north. A local affiliate of al-Qaida has taken advantage of the chaos to set up shop in the country's inaccessible hinterlands and plot attacks on the government and the U.S.
International concern of the situation is on the rise and on Tuesday, the United Nations Security Council met to discuss Yemen, though it failed to agree on a joint Lebanese-German statement calling on parties to "exercise restrain and to enter into a comprehensive dialogue to realize the legitimate aspirations of the Yemeni people."
The Gulf Cooperation Council, consisting of the six other oil-rich nations occupying the Arabian Peninsula with Yemen, has attempted to mediate between the Yemeni government and opposition, but its efforts have so far shown little success.
The GCC's proposal calls for Saleh to step down, but does not present a timetable and offers him immunity from prosecution, something rejected by the opposition.

Yemen: UN Security Council fails to reach agreement

Apr 20, 2011

UN Security Council members have called for restraint and dialogue between protesters and authorities in Yemen.

But the Council's first talks on the crisis ended in New York without an agreed public statement, with diplomats saying Russia objected.

Security forces earlier reportedly opened fire on anti-government protesters in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, and the southern city of Taiz.

Three people died and dozens were wounded in the unrest.

More than 120 people have been killed in two months of protests demanding President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down.

The Yemeni leader, who has been in power for more than three decades, has said he is willing to hand over power, but only to "safe hands".

More talk

UN envoys in New York were briefed behind closed doors by a representative of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who has just returned from Yemen.

Germany had called for the meeting, hoping, according to its ambassador Peter Wittig, to send a strong message that bloodshed must be avoided and mediation efforts by Arab Gulf Countries should be encouraged.

The details of Moscow's objection remains unclear, but before the talks began Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had warned the Yemeni opposition not to expect western help such as that being afforded to rebels in Libya.

Diplomats also suggested some delegations may have been cautious because this was the first time the Security Council had put Yemen on its agenda, and the situation there was seen as "sensitive and complex".

The council has been hesitant to address the Arab revolts, says the BBC's Barbara Plett at the UN headquarters in New York, with members such as Russia and China arguing that these are internal matters.

However, envoys are expected to consult with their governments, adds our correspondent, and the Security Council may meet again to discuss the issue later this week.

Burning tyres

Monday's clashes started in Taiz, Yemen's second largest city, after thousands of protesters took part in a march demanding the president's immediate resignation.

Security forces fired live rounds and tear gas "indiscriminately" at the crowd, witnesses said. The protesters set up barricades of burning tires.

Later, tens of thousands took to the streets in Sanaa and riot police again opened fire on the protesters, leaving two dead and hundreds injured, medics said.

Protesters threw stones and set fire to one security vehicle in retaliation, witnesses said.

Both Yemeni government and opposition delegations have met Gulf Arab mediators in the region in the past few days, with President Saleh, who initially offered not to seek re-election when his current term ended in 2013, subsequently saying he would step down after holding elections.

But he has warned of possible civil war if he was forced out.

Mr Saleh's weak central government already has little control beyond the capital. In recent years, it has struggled to confront an armed rebellion in the north and a secessionist movement in the south.