Three Yemeni tribesmen appear in court for abducting Czech tourists
Source: DPA, 25/01/2011
Sanaa - Three Yemeni tribesmen appeared at a state security court in Sana'a Tuesday to face charges of kidnapping four Czech tourists who were freed unharmed by police shortly after the abduction near the Yemeni capital last week.
The defendants - Ali Ahmad al-Khaledi, Ahmad Muhammad al-Walidi and Abdul-Salam Abdul-Khaliq al-Muafa - admitted to the charges as they made pleas to presiding judge Muhssein Alwan, saying they wanted to trade the hostages for a brother of al-Khaledi detained by police over a murder crime.
'We intended to host them as guests until my brother is released,' al-Khaledi told judges from behind bars.
Two other suspects are being tried in absentia in the same case.
Prosecutors told the court that the five men intercepted an off- road car carrying the four tourists, two women and two men, in Manakha, around 60 kilometres west of Sana'a on January 17, and forced the driver to step out before they drove off.
Police forces chased the car and stopped it on a highway leading to Dhamar province, some 100 kilometres south of Sana'a. They exchanged fire with the hostage takers and arrested three. Two of the abductors managed to flee.
A child passing the road and two policemen were injured in the clash, prosecutor Ali al-Samit told the court. The hostages were rescued unharmed, he said.
He said the kidnappers were carrying AK-47 rifles and hand grenades.
The court adjourned the case until February 1 to allow the prosecution time to issue warrants for the two suspects who are still at large.
The defendants face prison terms of between 10 to 25 years if convicted.
Tribal kidnapping of Westerners is a common practice by Yemeni tribes, but it often ends peacefully.
Disgruntled tribesmen from impoverished areas of Yemen often take hostages to use as bargaining chips to press the government for aid, jobs or the release of detained fellow clansmen.
In October, a Swedish engineer was briefly abducted by tribesmen in the southern province of Abyan demanding the release of a clan member arrested in 2008 for murder.
In May 2010, two young German girls were freed from an 11-month abduction in the restive northern province of Saada. They had been seized - along with their parents, younger brother, two other German women, a South Korean female teacher and a British engineer since June 2009.
The girl's brother and parents along with the British engineer remain missing. No group has claimed responsibility for the abduction, but the kidnappers are believed to be linked to al-Qaeda.
On May 24, two US tourists, a husband and wife, along with their driver, were kidnapped by armed tribesmen in the same area. They were released unharmed the next day.