Awlaki Sentenced in Yemeni Court, In Absentia

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The US wants Anwar al-Awlaki dead; Yemen just wants him in jail for a while. In 2010, the Obama administration reportedly authorized the targeted killing of al-Awlaki, whom US officials believe to be linked to the Fort Hood shootings and the failed Christmas Day bombing in 2009. A Yemeni court has taken a different approach: after trying the American-born Al Qaeda propagandist in absentia for the killing of a French engineer, it has sentenced him to ten years in prison, Al Jazeera reports.

Al-Awlaki’s sentence followed the Monday sentencing of Hisham Mohammed Assem for the murder of Jacques Spagnolo, a contractor with the Austrian-owned oil and gas firm OMV. Assem killed Spagnolo, who was working as a security guard, during a shooting attack on an OMV compound. Witnesses testified that if Assem not been apprehended his next target would have been the plant manager—an American. 

Assem has said that he killed Spagnolo out of personal animus. And OMV “saw no political background for the action taken by the Yemeni security guard,” while the defence ministry said Assem had probably acted for personal reasons. But Awlaki and his cousin, Othman, were charged with inciting Assem to commit the murder. Awlaki’s lawyer denies any link between Assem and his clients:

Mohammed al-Saqqaf, a lawyer for both Anwar and Othman, told the court in November that the al-Awlakis had no “connection or contact” with Assem, and that he also did not know where al-Awlaki was…. While both the charges and sentencing for Assem and the two al-Awlakis made no mention of al-Qaeda, they did link the three men to unspecified “terrorist organisations.”

It’s unclear what evidence the court had explicitly linking Assem to terrorism; his connection to the al-Awlakis seems murky enough. It’s certainly worth asking whether the US pressured the Yemeni court to include the al-Awlakis as part of Assem’s sentencing.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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