Yemen, under pressure to crack down on militants operating there after a foiled bomb plot involving U.S.-bound parcels, began the trial in absentia on Tuesday of a radical U.S.-born preacher wanted dead or alive by Washington.
Anwar al-Awlaki, who has been linked to a failed bombing of a U.S.-bound plane in December 2009 that was claimed by Yemen's al-Qaida wing, is thought to be hiding in southern Yemen.
Prosecutors charged him with plotting to kill foreigners. It's the first formal legal action by Yemen against al-Awlaki.
Also on Tuesday, the trial of a Yemeni journalist and al-Qaida expert was set to continue in San'a.
Abdulelah Shai is being tried for alleged links to al-Qaida, including helping to publicize the views of al-Awlaki.
Two others are on trial along with Awlaki — a relative, Othman al-Awlaki, and Hisham Mohammed Assem, a gunman who last month killed a Frenchman at Austrian oil and gas company OMV's site. They are also being tried in absentia.
"(The three defendants) ... were members of an armed gang that targeted foreigners," the prosecutor said when reading out the charges.
The U.S. Treasury has blacklisted Awlaki as a "specially designated global terrorist," a move that freezes any assets he may have under U.S. jurisdiction.
Earlier this year, the United States authorized the CIA to capture or kill him.
Awlaki has also been linked to an army major who went on a shooting spree that killed 13 people last year at Fort Hood in Texas.
The two parcel bombs intercepted last week on cargo planes in Britain and Dubai are thought to be the work of al-Qaida's Yemen-based arm, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), U.S. officials say.