x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Former Saleh security chiefs to appear at Yemen bombing trial

The two men had been branded 'fugitives from justice' after they failed to appear at the trial of nine suspected Al Qaeda members accused of involvement in the May 21 bombing.

SANAA // A Yemeni court lifted a freeze on the assets of two former security chiefs today after they finally agreed to appear in court over a deadly 2012 suicide bombing in Sanaa.

It was not immediately clear whether the two men, both appointees of the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, would face charges over the bombing, which rocked the capital shortly after the veteran strongman was forced from power, or would merely be required to testify.

"We have cancelled the asset freeze after the two men ended their defiance of the court," the judge Hilal Mahfal said.

A travel ban ordered against the two, the former central security services commander General Abdulmalik Al Taieb and his deputy, General Yehya Mohammed Abdullah Saleh, a nephew of the former president, was also lifted, Mr Mahfal said.

Mr Al Taieb appeared in court in person. Mr Yehya was represented by lawyers.

The court imposed the assets freeze and travel ban last month, branding the two men "fugitives from justice" after they failed to appear at the trial of nine suspected Al Qaeda members accused of involvement in the May 21 bombing.

Mr Al Taieb had been sacked on the day of the bombing which killed 86 soldiers taking part in a rehearsal for a military parade. Mr Yehya was dismissed in December.

When the trial opened on January 14, one of the nine defendants - Hisham Sharaabi, 24 - shouted from the dock that the bombing was "political" and "involves high-ranking officials".

Al Qaeda, which claimed the attack, said it targeted the defence minister, Mohammed Nasser Ahmed, and his aides. The minister escaped unharmed.

The bombing came three months after President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi took power when Mr Saleh was forced to step down following a year-long uprising against his 33-year rule.

Mr Hadi has since sacked many Mr Saleh appointees from top security and military posts, using his powers to restructure the security forces under a UN-backed transition deal.