Terror defendant: U.S. interrogators threatened life
SAN'A, Yemen (AP) -- A man accused of taking part in an attack on a French oil tanker claimed in court Saturday that he was threatened by American interrogators with death or transfer to a U.S.-run prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Fourteen defendants also complained to the judge that they had not yet been assigned defense lawyers and, as they were escorted afterward to trucks to return them to their cells, they chanted, "long live [al Qaeda leader Osama] bin Laden. Death to America."
The 14 defendants -- plus a 15th suspect being tried in absentia -- are accused of planning and carrying out the suicide attack on the Limburg tanker October 6, 2002. One Bulgarian crew member was killed and 90,000 barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Aden.
They also have been charged with carrying out the attack on a helicopter carrying employees of the U.S. oil company Hunt Corp. in November 2002, the attempted assassination of U.S. ambassador Edmund Hull and the killing of a Yemeni security officer.
Some of the defendants are believed to be linked to bin Laden's al Qaeda terror network.
One of them, Fawaz al-Rabeiee, told the court he was interrogated by three Americans.
"They threatened to take me to Guantanamo or do to me what they did with al-Harthi, or execute me," he said.
Ali Qaed Sinan al-Harthi was bin Laden's top lieutenant in Yemen when he and five other al Qaeda suspects were killed by U.S. forces in November 2002. Al-Harthi was a suspect in the bombing of the USS Cole in a Yemeni port that killed 17 sailors in October 2000. Both the Limburg and Cole attacks were carried out by explosives-laden vessels.
Detainees in Washington's war on terrorism have been held at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay since January 2002 and now number about 600 from 42 countries. Only a few charged in recent weeks have been permitted lawyers.
The Yemeni court adjourned until July 24.
If convicted, the men face sentences ranging from five years in jail to the death penalty.
Yemen had long tolerated Muslim extremists, but cracked down on such groups after the attacks of September 11, 2001. American intelligence agents worked with the Yemenis after the Cole bombing, and Yemen has allowed U.S. forces to train its troops to combat terrorists.