Sana’a: An appeals court on Sunday upheld the death sentences of four Yemenis convicted of lethal attacks on government and Western targets, while commuting the terms of two others to 12 years in jail.
The court which specialises in security cases reduced the jail sentences of six other defendants, although 15-year jail sentences were upheld against a Saudi and a Yemeni defendant.
Three Syrians had their sentences reduced from 15 to 10 years, along with another Syrian defendant who was initially jailed for 12 years had two years cut off his sentence.
Two Yemenis slapped with 12- and 10-year terms had their sentences cut to eight years, while 12- and eight-year terms were upheld against two other Yemenis.
The 16 were found guilty last July of carrying out 13 armed attacks over the past two years on foreign targets, government establishments and oil facilities in Yemen, the ancestral homeland of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
These include a January 2008 attack which killed two Belgian women tourists, a March 2008 attack targeting the US embassy in Sana’a and a rocket strike on a compound housing American oil workers.
The defendants who were all present in the dock chanted "Allah is the greatest," while one of them was heard charging: "These are the rulings of tyrants."
They can still challenge the verdict at the supreme court.
Yemen`s government has intensified its military campaign against al Qaeda as international pressure mounts on Sana’a to clamp down on militants believed to be regrouping in the impoverished country`s eastern regions.
Al Qaeda`s branch in Yemen – Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) -- has claimed responsibility for a botched Christmas Day attack on a US airliner. Washington accused the group of training the Nigerian assailant.
Yemen has seen a number of attacks claimed by al Qaeda against foreign missions, tourist sites and oil installations. Four South Korean tourists were killed in March 2009 by a bomb attack in the historic city of Shibam.
In March 2008, a schoolgirl and a policeman were killed when a bomb struck a girls` school near the US embassy. The State Department said the target was its mission in Sana’a.
The US embassy was also targeted in September 2008 by a double car bombing claimed by al Qaeda that killed 19 people, including seven attackers.