The father of an American-born Islamic cleric, who is currently believed to be hiding in Yemen, spoke out in defense of his son and said Anwar al-Awlaki was not a member of al-Qaeda nor was he associating with terrorists, press reports said on Monday.
In an interview with CNN Dr. Nasser al-Awlaki said: "I am now afraid of what they will do with my son. He's not Osama bin Laden, they want to make something out of him that he's not."
Yemeni officials have claimed that Awlaki is hiding in the southern mountains of Yemen and accused the cleric of having contact with Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, the Nigerian who allegedly attempted to blow up an American airliner on Christmas day, during his stay in Yemen.
Nasser, however, denied the claims and said: "What do you expect my son to do? There are missiles raining down on the village. He has to hide. But he is not hiding with al Qaeda," he said, adding "our tribe is protecting him right now."
The doctor, who had previously held several positions within the Yemeni government, including minister of agriculture, also said he believed missile strikes in Yemen aimed at routing out al-Qaeda operatives would only serve to recruit more members to the organization with the aim to protect their country.
"I don't want those American cowboys to destroy Yemen," Nasser said.
Although Nasser insists his son is not a terrorist or does not encourage acts of terrorism he did acknowledge his son's views had diverted from the mainstream after he was imprisoned in Yemen in 2006.
"They put him in jail for 18 months, and I detected a change after he got out of prison. He began to get away from the mainstream," Nasser said, adding, "he is a preacher. You cannot tie Anwar to acts of terrorism."
With regards to his son, Nasser insists he is an "all-American boy" and he would love to return to the United States.
"He has been wrongly accused, it's unbelievable. He lived his life in America, he's an all-American boy. My son would love to go back to America, he used to have a good life in America. Now he's hiding in the mountains, he doesn't even have safe water to drink," Nasser told CNN.
Nasser said he would do his best to convince his son to surrender "but they are not giving me time, they want to kill my son. How can the American government kill one of their own citizens? This is a legal issue that needs to be answered."