Would Yemeni law find Anwar Awlaki guilty?
Yemen’s Foreign Minister Abu Baker al Qirby urged Anwar Awlaki to turn himself to be tried under Yemeni law, vowing that no Yemeni citizen would be extradited to the US or any other country.
The US announced last week that it had authorized Awlaki’s kill or capture, having determined he is an active al Qaeda operative. Awlaki was previously known for brainwashing vulnerable persons on the internet. Awlaki holds duel Yemeni-American citizenship.
“Yemen is going to prosecute those within its territory, and they will be punished according to the law if found guilty of any crimes punishable by the law,” al-Qirby said in an interview published by the quasi governmental Yemen Observer.
There is one small problem. Yemen’s law does not criminalize jihad abroad in defense of occupied Muslim lands. If Anwar Awlaki, or any other Yemeni jihaddist, is guilty of conspiring to commit murder in the US, there’s no law in Yemen that prohibits it. Yemeni courts have explicitly accepted jihad as a viable defense.
In a terror trial in July, 2006, the defendants admitted to fighting in Iraq against coalition forces as well as training suicide bombers. “This does not violate [Yemeni] law,” the judge found. “Islamic Sharia law permits jihad against occupiers,” he said.
Jihad on American Soldiers and American Civilians
What is jihad? A lethal shooting spree at Fort Hood, according to Anwar Awlaki. Awlaki was in contact with Nidal Hassan prior to the attack and issued a statement after, entitled “Nidal Hassan is a hero.”
Personable and easy spoken, Awlaki is the calm western voice of al Qaeda’s bloody fanaticism who slipped under the door of many English speaking homes. His logic of slaughter is chilling: “Nidal opened fire on soldiers who were on their way to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. How can there be any dispute about the virtue of what he has done?” Some of Yemen’s religious authorities also consider US troops as legitimate targets of terrorism.
Yemen’s Koranic dialog program, aimed at reforming al Qaeda terrorists, never discouraged fighting in Iraq. An expedited release program, the dialog program discouraged religious fanatics from defining the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh as an apostate. The program’s director, Judge Hamoud al Hittar said in 2005, “Iraq is not a subject of the dialogue.” Al Hittar has since become Minster of Endowments. Some state clerics in Yemen call for harm to the US in weekly prayers.
The Yemeni judicial system and religious authorities have found that US soldiers are legitimate targets. Does it matter if they are in Iraq or the US? Yemeni courts would likely agree with Anwar Awlaki that Fort Hood is a legitimate target of jihad.
Awlaki goes further and defines ordinary Americans as sanctioned victims of terrorism. Awlaki was joyous in praising Umar Farouk Abdulmutalla, who tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Dec. 25. Exploding a jet plane in mid air is legitimate under Islamic law because “the American populace is living within a democratic regime and they hold the responsibility of its policies.” Awlaki defined all Americans civilians as worthy of a death sentence because they are “participant in all the crimes of their government.”
Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh openly supports many external resistance groups. Hamas and Hezbollah both have official offices in Yemen. A variety of other regional death cults maintain informal offices.