Yemeni prosecutors on Tuesday charged US citizen and radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], with incitement to kill foreigners. Awlaki, a suspected member of al Qaeda [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] who is believed to be hiding in Yemen, was charged [CNN report] in absentia. US officials have labeled Awlaki as a terrorist and have placed him on a list to be captured or killed. Awlaki is believed to be linked to Major Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooting suspect, as well as the Christmas Day airplane bombing attempt [JURIST news archive]. The Yemeni government has sent forces on a counter-terrorism operation into the Province of Shabwa, where it is believed that Awlaki is hiding. The trial will continue on Saturday.
The Yemeni government desires to be considered an ally of the US in the fight against terrorism. However, some groups in the US fear the consequences in the case of Awlaki. A lawsuit [JURIST report] questioning the legality of targeted killings of terrorist suspects by the US was filed in August by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) [advocacy websites]. In September, the Obama administration asked the court to dismiss [JURIST report] the lawsuit arguing that the matter involves "non-justiciable political questions" to be decided by the executive branch and that litigation could divulge state secrets. In early August, the ACLU and the CCR obtained a specially designated global terrorist (SDGT) license that enables them to represent Awlaki, but announced they are still pursuing a legal challenge [JURIST reports] to the licensing scheme.