The trial of a Sudanese morgue attendant for the rape and murder of 16 young women in Yemen took a bizarre twist on Saturday after he retracted much of his confession and one of his alleged victims turned up in court.
"I only killed two students: Hosn Attiya, a Yemeni, and Zainab Saud, an Iraqi," Mohammad Adam Omar Ishaak told the judge.
Student Nada Yassine Mohammad Said told the court of her "astonishment" at learning through Yemen's press that she had been killed by Mohammad Adam.
The morgue attendant at Sanaa University's medical faculty confessed a week ago to the murder and rape of 16 young women in Yemen, eight of whom were students.
He went on to admit the next day to the killing of another 11 in Sudan and even more in Kuwait, Chad and the Central African Republic.
"I admit all these facts," the so-called Sanaa Ripper had said after his confessions were read out in court.
But when quizzed Saturday by judge Yahya al-Aslami as to why he had lied, Mohammad Adam replied: "I was not sure. I only admit to two" murders.
Yemen's interior ministry had stressed on May 19 that Mohammad Adam stood accused of only two murders, adding it had received no further information on the disappearance of any other female students.
"Mohammad Adam Omar confessed to killing two female students at the medical faculty of Sanaa university, one Yemeni and one Iraqi," the ministry said in a statement, confirming that the two bodies were found in the faculty's autopsy room.
Members of the Hamdan tribe, to which victim Hosn Attiya belonged, hurled abuse at the public prosecutor, accusing him of a cover-up before leaving the room with their lawyers.
The dramatic turn of events was compounded when an uncle of Iraqi victim Zainab Saud, who sat with family members, slapped the Sudanese consul before being subdued by officers of the court.
The consul told AFP, "Sudanese nationals are very careful. Since this business blew up, they have become the object of harassment from some Yemenis, and even from some Iraqis."
Before bringing the eventful session to a close, the judge decided to reopen all investigations into the case.
He also summoned the medical team and experts, comprising two Iraqis, a Sudanese and a Yemeni, who had carried out investigations in the faculty's morgue.
The trial resumes at the north Sanaa criminal court on Monday, June 5.
More than 10,000 students marched through the Yemeni capital last week demanding that the 52-year-old Sudanese be executed and his corpse put on public display. They also called for suspected accomplices to be brought to trial.
The medical faculty's dean and his assistant have been suspended, and the university's head of security sacked -- SANAA (AFP)
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