2 German ex-soldiers convicted over Yemen mercenary plans

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BERLIN (AP) — Two former German soldiers were convicted Monday of trying to form a mercenary group to intervene in Yemen’s civil war. They were found guilty of attempting to form a terrorist organization.

The Stuttgart state court said the two men, aged 61 and 53, were given suspended sentences of 18 months and 14 months. It didn’t release their names.

The two men decided in April 2021 to set up a paramilitary unit of 100 to 150 people, predominantly current and former German soldiers, the court found. They aimed for the group to take control of an area held by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, forcing peace talks between them and Yemen’s internationally recognized government.

The court said the defendants were influenced by “ideas colored by Christian fundamentalism” and by the predictions of a Turkish fortune-teller, as well as by a desire to make money. The court said one defendent tried to contact Saudi officials to obtain financial and military help, while the other tried to recruit former and current soldiers.

Although they succeeded neither in attracting a big investor nor in getting anyone to join their unit, they stuck to their plans until they were arrested a year ago, the court said. Their trial opened in June and, in August, they were released on bail after 10 months in custody.

The defendants confessed at the trial and had no previous convictions, the court said. It added that no one is appealing the verdict.

War has raged for eight years in Yemen between Shiite Houthi rebels and pro-government forces backed by a coalition of Sunni Gulf Arab states. The Houthis swept down from the mountains in 2014, occupied northern Yemen and the country’s capital, Sanaa, and forced the internationally recognized government to flee into exile to Saudi Arabia.

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