A Yemeni court on Monday condemned a man to death for establishing contact with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and offering to collaborate in spying for the Jewish state.
Bassam al-Haidari, 26, was found guilty of writing directly to the prime minister of Israel by email, offering to work for the Jewish state,
"The court... sentences the first defendant to death in the case of making illegal contact with the Zionist Jewish Israeli entity," said judge Hassan Elwan.
Another defendant Imad al-Rimi, 23, was sentenced to five years in prison and Ali al-Mahfal, 24, to three.
"This is unfair, you have sentenced me without any proof of these accusations," Mahfal shouted from the caged dock. The defendants said they wanted to appeal.
The three men went on trial in January, accused of operating under the name of the little-known Organization of Islamic Jihad and spreading false news of attacks on government buildings, embassies and foreign interests in Yemen in 2008.
This is unfair, you have sentenced me without any proof of these accusations
Organization of Islamic Jihad
The prosecution charged Haidari with corresponding with Olmert through emails, one of which said: "We are the Organization of Islamic Jihad and you are Jews, but you are honest, and we are ready to do anything."
The charge sheet said Olmert responded to Haidari, also known as Abu al-Ghaith, welcoming his offer to collaborate.
"We are ready to support you to become an obstacle in the Middle East. We will support you as an agent," Olmert was quoted as writing.
The group also claimed in Internet messages signed by Abu al-Gaith that it prepared 16 car bombs to attack government buildings and embassies, according to the prosecution.
They were accused in January of claiming an attack on the U.S. embassy that killed 19 people in September.
The court... sentences the first defendant to death in the case of making illegal contact with the Zionist Jewish Israeli entity
Judge Hassan Elwan
The twin suicide car bombings on the U.S. embassy, later claimed by al-Qaeda in Yemen, were the biggest terrorist operation in the poor Arab state since the attacks on the French tanker Limburg in 2002 and the U.S. warship Cole in 2000.
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh later said that an Islamist "terrorist cell" with links to Israeli intelligence had been dismantled.
The government of Yemen joined the U.S.-led war against terrorism following the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. It has jailed scores of terrorists in connection with bombings of Western targets and clashes with the authorities, but is still viewed in the West as a haven for terrorists.
The impoverished Arabian Peninsula country is the ancestral home of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. It is also home to a tiny Jewish minority of about 400 people.