Yemen’s supreme court today upheld the death sentence against a man convicted of killing a member of the country’s small Jewish minority, a judicial source told AFP. Abdel Aziz Yahia al-Abdi, 39, was sentenced in June last year by an appeals court in Amran, north of Sanaa, to death by firing squad for the murder of father-of-nine Rabbi Masha Yaish Nahari in the town of Raydah in 2008.The supreme court was presided over by judge Khamis al-Dini, the source said requesting anonymity.
A small group of the Jewish community and members of Nahari’s family had protested outside the supreme court and the ministry of justice last month demanding the speeding up of the court process.
Last year’s decision by the appeals court had turned over a lower court verdict that ordered Abdi to only pay 27,500 dollars in blood money in lieu of execution after medical reports found he was “mentally abnormal.”
Abdi killed his wife five years ago but was spared prison at the time when he was ruled to be mentally unstable.
A former air force pilot, Abdi had repeatedly said he carried out the murder of Nahari after warning Yemeni Jews that he would kill them unless they converted to Islam, the court heard during his trial in February last year.
The case stoked fear in Yemen’s remaining Jewish community of only around 400 people, most of whom live in the Amran area.
In 1948, the country’s Jewish community numbered some 60,000. But in the three years following the creation of the Jewish state that year, more than 48,000 emigrated to Israel.
The community continued to dwindle in subsequent decades and by the early 1990s it numbered only around 1,000 people.
The lifting of a longstanding travel ban in 1993 sparked a fresh exodus.