Yemeni journalist still detained after over 16 months
SANA’A — A Yemeni journalist accused of being a “media man” for Al-Qaeda, but whom human rights activists say was wrongly accused, remains in prison. He has been held behind bars longer than any other journalist in Yemen.
Kidnapped from his house on August 16, 2010, Abdulelah Haydr Shaye’ has now been detained for over 16 months.
In January 2011, the State’s Security Court said that “he was found guilty of participating in an armed gang, having links to Al Qaeda and for taking photographs of Yemen security bases and foreign embassies to be targeted by the terrorist organization.” He was sentenced to five years in prison.
However, his volunteer lawyer Abdulrahman Barmaan said that the court hasn’t presented any evidence for that.
The journalist who specialized in Al Qaeda and Islamist militant groups and works at the state-run Saba News Agency, Shaye’ had contributed with analysis to Al-Jazeera and BBC reports on US drone strikes in Yemen.
He was the first journalist to cover the death of 42 civilians in Al-Ma’jalla in Abyan, south Yemen, after a drone strike on Dec 17, 2009 on the area. The strike had allegedly targeted an Al Qaeda military training camp.
“Shaye’ was arrested by US orders to the Yemeni government for his analysis on the American airstrikes against Abyan and Arhab,” Samya Al-Aghbari, a Yemeni journalist and political activist told the Yemen Times. “He was the first reporter to expose facts about the serious human rights violations against Yemeni civilians caused by the airstrikes.”
National Security has banned all reporters and human rights activists from visiting teh detained journalist, according to Al-Aghbari, who spoke to his brother on the phone last week.
“We refuse the verdict against Shaye’ by the State Security Court,” Marwan Damaj, Secretary General of Yemeni Journalists Syndicate told the Yemen Times. “We demand his fair trial in a normal court.”
Shaye’ had no defense lawyer present at his trial at the State Security Court, or Specialized Criminal Court, according to Damaj. The Global Post reported in January 2011 that Shaye's lawyer refused to attend his trial, saying that it wouldn't change anything and in protest at a judiciary system run by national and political security.
“Neither we nor the Yemeni Lawyers Union recognize this court as a legal judiciary institution,” he said. “Our colleague Shaye’ has been illegally detained and has not received a fair trial.”
On February 1, 2011, outgoing president Saleh directed the release of Shaye’, but sources inside the presidential office told a Yemeni journalist that the American President Barack Obama had sent a letter to Saleh to suspend the journalist’s release.
“We condemn the US intervening in such a way,” said Damaj.
“Some human rights organizations have neglected Shaye’s case because they receive funding from the US, and are concerned that their financial support will be suspended,” said Al-Aghbari.