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Coda


And then, fully eleven months after their escape, in a single week in March of 2004, all ten suspects were magically recaptured in the mountains of Abyan province dominated by tribal factions. A "security trial" was staged for five of them in a Sanaa courtroom in early July. At some point during the course of the trial, the defendants were awarded attorneys but were not permitted to speak with them outside of court. The sentences came down in September: five to ten years for four of the defendants, and the death penalty for the plot's on-the-ground coordinator, al-Badawi, who hollered out, "This is an unjust verdict! This is an American verdict!"

For me, the proceedings were quintessentially Yemeni. But al-Badawi had a point: American diplomats attended the trial and were quick to praise its outcome, and once again it seemed that Yemen's eagerness to please both sides had produced slapstick consequences. I left the country as most Western journalists have, awed and confounded-and oddly reluctant to return to my world of shallow, banal mysteries.


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