• April 25, 2003
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    Family of missionary murdered wants justice, not vengeance
Family of missionary murdered wants justice, not vengeance On Sunday, Kathleen Gariety's family celebrated Easter, while half a world away a man went on trial in the slaying of the Wauwatosa missionary and two other Americans at a Baptist hospital in Yemen.

As the trial for the Yemeni man got under way, Gariety's brother said he wanted justice, not vengeance.

Although the prosecutor has asked for the death penalty against Abed Abdul Razak Kamel, Jerome Gariety Jr. said he and his two surviving sisters don't want Kamel executed.

"We're not going to lie awake at night waiting for vengeance and waiting for his death," Gariety said in a telephone interview from his Colgate home.

"I certainly don't want to see his death, but I do want him incarcerated for the rest of his life so he can't injure anyone else in the same way."

Kamel is accused of killing Gariety, 53, and two colleagues at the Baptist missionary hospital in Jibla, Yemen: hospital director William E. Koehn, 60, of Kansas and Martha C. Myers, 57, of Alabama. The three were murdered Dec. 30.

Kamel, 30, told a court Sunday that he killed the three American missionaries to defend Islam, believing they were sterilizing Muslim women and trying to convert Muslims to Christianity.

He said he moved to Jibla, 125 miles south of the capital of San'a, after he heard about missionaries working at a Southern Baptist-run hospital.

"I acted out of a religious duty . . . and in revenge from those who converted Muslims from their religion and made them unbelievers," Kamel said as his trial opened under tight security.

Kamel testified that he traveled to Jibla in July 2001 and began scouting his target - visiting the hospital often and asking questions about its activities.

"I found out that they were truly converting Muslims into Christians," Kamel said.

But Gariety's family and friends disputed that.

"Yes, Kathleen and her two co-workers were Christians, but their main goal was to show they were Christians by example," said her brother. "They were out there helping people. They weren't there to push their faith on them."

Keith Cogburn, interim pastor at Layton Avenue Baptist Church where Gariety was a member, said she was a deeply committed Christian who believed her faith required her to help people of all faiths who were suffering.

"If, as a result of those actions, people inquire what is it that makes her this kind of person, Kathy would have indicated that it was her faith, and she would have talked to them about her Christian faith," said Cogburn, who is also executive director of the Lakeland Baptist Association.

Jibla residents have said the Americans at the hospital never discussed religion. Yemeni law bars non-Muslims from proselytizing in the overwhelmingly Muslim country.

At the 80-bed hospital in Jibla, Gariety worked as the purchasing manager. She was assigned to the hospital in 1992 by the Southern Baptist International Mission Board.

Kamel, who was arrested the day of the shooting, told the court he coordinated the attack with Ali al-Jarallah, another suspected Muslim extremist accused of gunning down a Yemeni leftist politician two days earlier.

Kamel is accused of walking into the hospital with a semiautomatic rifle hidden under his clothes and opening fire on a staff meeting. He said he fired two shots at each target. A fourth missionary, pharmacist Donald W. Caswell, 49, of Texas, was wounded.

Yemeni officials have said that Kamel might belong to a terrorist cell linked to al-Qaida. Audiotapes of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden were found at Kamel's house. Sunday, however, neither Kamel nor the prosecutor mentioned al-Qaida, blamed for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Kamel's next court appearance was set for April 30.


Tracking developments



Gariety said he was watching a television news channel Sunday when he saw a brief mention of the trial starting. He said he will follow the case on the Internet and through American news accounts. The family has no plans to go to Yemen for the court proceedings.

He's hopeful that justice will prevail.

"I certainly hope that the Yemeni government does do the right thing and not let him go. That would be the worst," Gariety said.

Kathleen Gariety earned a degree in art from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1971 after growing up on Milwaukee's west side, and she was noted for her artistic ability. At the Good Friday service last week at Layton Avenue Baptist Church, parishioners admired a large papier-mache sculpture of Jesus that she created several years ago, Cogburn said.

For Jerome Gariety, the first Easter Sunday without his sister was difficult.

"It was one of the tougher Sunday Masses today," he said. "No matter how much you feel she's in a much better place, it's still a hard thing to accept."

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