SANA'A // Yemen, under pressure to crack down on militants operating in the country after a foiled bomb plot involving parcels addressed to the US, began the trial his absence today of a radical US-born preacher wanted dead or alive by Washington.
Anwar al Awlaki, who has been linked to the failed bombing of a US-bound plane in December 2009 that was claimed by Yemen's al Qa'eda wing, is thought to be hiding in southern Yemen.
At the same time the trial of a Yemeni journalist and al Qa'eda expert was due to continue in Sana'a. Abdulelah Shai is being tried for alleged links to al Qa'eda, including helping to publicise the views of al Awlaki. Two others are on trial along with al Awlaki: a relative, Othman al Awlaki, and Hisham Mohammed Assem, a gunman who killed a Frenchman at the site in Yemen of the Austrian oil and gas company OMV last month. They are also being tried in absentia.
The prosecutor, reading out the charges, aid the three were "members of an armed gang that targeted foreigners," the prosecutor said when reading out the charges.
The US Treasury has blacklisted al Awlaki as a "specially designated global terrorist", a move that freezes any assets he may have under US jurisdiction.
Earlier this year, the United States authorised the CIA to capture or kill him. Al Awlaki has also been linked to an army major who went on a shooting spree that killed 13 people last year at Fort Hood in Texas.
The two parcel bombs were intercepted last week on cargo planes in Britain and Dubai are thought to be the work of al Qa'eda's Yemen-based arm, al Qa'eda in the Arabian Peninsula.