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Yemeni Jew killer gets death sentence

16 Yemeni Jews in secret exodus to Israel

An appeals court in Yemen sentenced to death a Muslim man who shot dead a Jewish compatriot on Sunday as 16 Yemeni Jews arrived to Israel in a secret exodus.

The ruling overturned a previous sentence in March in which the court deemed Abdul-Aziz al-Abdi, a retired pilot in the Yemeni air force who killed a Jewish Yemeni, "mentally unstable." It ordered him to pay a fine of 50.5 million riyals ($250,000.)

However the victim's father appealed the verdict and now Abdi's attorneys said they would file an appeal to the country's supreme court, the highest judicial body.

Yehiya bin Yaeesh said his son Mashaa was in the company of four Muslim men when he was shot in the town of Raida in December and had clearly been targeted.

There are 200-300 Jews in Yemen. About 50,000 moved to Israel in an airlift begun in 1949.

Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country, is struggling with a Shiite revolt in the north, a secessionist movement in the south and growing militancy among Sunni al Qaeda sympathisers.

The unrest has raised fears that Yemen will slip into chaos and provide a base for al Qaeda or pirates operating in the Indian Ocean.

Sunni Muslims make up the majority of Yemen's 23 million inhabitants, while most of the rest are from the Zaydi branch of Shiite Islam.

Jewish secret exodus

Also on Sunday, 16 Yemenite Jews arrived to Israel in a secret exodus planned by the Jewish Agency, whose representatives were spotted in Yemen in the previous weeks, Arab media reports said.

Yemenite Jews enjoy special protection from Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Salah but covert exoduses out of Yemen continue as a result of occasional violent attacks against the native Yemeni population.

A previous operation carried out by the Jewish Agency saw the transportation of 10 Yemenite Jews who were allegedly threatened by al-Qaeda in the country.