A spy’s life: An interview with a senior Yemeni spy
Courageously, he spoke about very sensitive top secrets during his 30 years of work.
These secrets, revealing a side of the secret relations between Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Yemen’s intelligence, are juxtaposed with the personal details of his life. For Bin Mo’aili, personal and professional have been mixing for years.
He had different duties in different countries, which required him to travel in several Arab countries. Because of this, Bin Mo’aili acquired tens of wives over the years.
Bin Mo’aili worked for 23 years in Saudi intelligence and then for ten years in Yemeni-Iraqi cooperative intelligence.
But now, things have changed. Currently, he is facing problems with Yemeni intelligence operations, known as the Political Security Organization (PSO), because they separated him from his 31 children who live all around the Arab countries he has worked in and who are awaiting his return.
Documents from the case Bin Mo’aili filed against Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2006 reveal a side of the suffering he endured 14 years ago.
In 2007, Mo’aili received a verdict stipulating that Saleh compensate him for the sufferings. Saleh was at the time directly responsible for Political Security.
However, this verdict, which handed down to Bin Mo’aili with the help of professional lawyers from the Hood Organization for Defending Human Rights (HOOD), has yet to be realized.
Today, Bin Mo’aili has a memorandum from Sultan Al-Arada, Marib’s governor, to President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, clarifying Bin Mo’aili’s demands, taking into consideration that he is a senior spy.
He also has an order given by Hadi to the head of Yemen’s PSO to release his passports and other seized things.
Everyday, Bin Mo’aili goes to the PSO office in Sana’a for the purpose of getting his passport and identity cards back.
He said Political Security confiscated his eight passports issued either in Yemen or in Yemen’s embassies abroad, including his first passport—issued in 1959, his identity card, his family card and a commercial record.
Bin Mo’aili said that his salvation is in getting his seized documents and passports back so that he can leave Yemen to meet his family members scattered in different countries around the Arab World.
Duties map, women map
Currently, Bin Mo’aili lives in a small house in Sana’a with Molok Al-Anesi, his newest wife, and Soa’od, his 26-year-old son from his Kuwaiti wife Salwa.
He has 31 children living in the 11 Arab countries he was based in while working as a spy for Saudi Arabia.
He left Yemen and joined the Security Academy in Saudi Arabia, known as King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Academy, in 1959. Bin Mo’aili said he started working in espionage in the 1960s.
He graduated from the school in 1967 and married his first wife Sara Jamal Mahdi, a Kuwaiti woman. After that, he married many other women.
Mahdi gave birth to five children: Ali, Osama, Hosam, Esra’a and Alya. However, the security duties Bin Mo’aili had to carry out in several areas inside and outside Saudi Arabia led to his other marriages, an action he pursued following the example of Saudi kings.
After Sara, he married Fatima and Salma, both Saudi women, and they each gave birth to five children.
Moreover, while in Jordon in 1971 during the civil war that caused death of thousands of Palestinians who sought refuge there, Bin Mo’aili married Khitam, a Jordanian woman, who gave birth to a girl, Maha.
During his work in the General Investigation unit, where he was located in the eastern Saudi region of Al-Khafji, Bin Mo’aili married Salwa, a Kuwaiti woman, who gave birth to Soa’od, now living with him in Sana’a. During the same period, he married Awatef, an Egyptian living in Kuwait.
He said Awatef gave birth to Dua’a, Laheeb and Sa’ad, who all live in his house in Cairo. The two remain married, though he left her 14 years ago.
He married an Ethiopian woman named Sa’ada Ahmed while traveling to Addis Ababa in 1980. Sa’ada gave birth to Shamlan. While working a commercial task in Abu Dhabi in 1984, Bin Mo’aili married Noor, an Emirati woman, who gave birth to Moneef, Rashid and Bilal.
Between 1980 and 1985, Bin Mo’aili was assigned a security task in Libya during the siege imposed by foreign countries on Mua’mar Al-Kaddafi’s rule.
At that time, he married a Libyan woman named Aziza who gave birth to three children, a Tunisian woman named Ferial who gave birth to four children and a Sudanese woman named Hamda who gave birth to seven children. He was married to Hamda for ten years before divorcing her.
Bin Mo’aili said that during security training courses in New York, he married an American woman, of Moroccan origin, named Mariam and they had two sons, Kamil and Kamal.
Even during a visit to his hometown in Marib, Bin Mo’aili married Ameena, who gave birth to Hassan.
Because having more than four wives is impermissible in Islam, Bin Mo’aili divorced all his wives except Sara, Awatef, and Molook, to whom he married two years ago.
Proudly and disparately he spoke of his children, who all received a good education, he said. He said most of them are married with children now. He said he has more than 150 grandchildren carrying his name, a claim his brothers try to deny.
When he filed a case against Saleh, disagreement arose between Bin Mo’aili and his brothers, sheikhs of the Abida tribe, because they tried to deny that he belonged to their family.
Bin Mo’aili said Saleh believed no one would dare to face him or file a case against him; therefore, he resorted to urging his supporters in Obaida tribe to deny Bin Mo’aili’s place amongst them.
Bin Mo’aili said he worked for Saudi intelligence from 1967 until 1990. He also said that he learned Iraqi, Libyan and Qatari intelligence tried to recruit him because of his Yemeni origins.
He was an official in Saudi Investigations in Al-Riyadh. It was this last position he took charge of which enabled him to know Yemeni intelligence officers with whom he later contacted.
Duties between Sana’a and Baghdad, minus marriages
In 1990, Bin Mo’aili returned to Sana’a on a flight from Al-Riyadh to Sudan, then Cairo, then Jordan and finally Sana’a.
Bin Mo’aili said he left Al-Riyadh without informing those he worked for.
Knowing that he is a Yemeni with a wide experience in the security field, Yemeni intelligence requested him officially, through Yemen’s embassy in Al-Riyadh, to come back and to work in Yemen.
The Yemeni request coincided with a Qatari request for Bin Mo’aili to work either in the Ministry of Interior or the Ministry of Defense, but he preferred Yemen to Qatar, which was a wrong decision, he said.
In Yemen, Bin Mo’aili’s task was to enhance the PSO. He said the situation of Yemen’s intelligence operations shocked him because it didn’t match his experience.
“Yemen’s intelligence counted on information given by ordinary people, relatives and people who pretended to be mentally ill, not on security forces that have a clear strategy and organized plans,” he said sarcastically.
Bin Mo’aili said he met then-president Saleh several times before Saleh sent him to Iraq on the request of then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
In 1991, Iraqi intelligence welcomed Bin Mo’aili to work at the Al-Madina Al-Monawara radio station and the Ahrar Al-Jazeera radio station, which broadcasted from Baghdad to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in a media war, alongside the military war between Hussein and the Gulf countries.
Bin Mo’aili said he thinks Iraqi intelligence focused on him because he had worked for a long time with Saudi intelligence and knew their political and private secrets.
“I trained Moroccan women to act in a live broadcast at the two radio stations,” he said. “They pretended and alleged Saudi and Kuwaiti emirs tortured them. Knowing the names of the emirs and their personal relations helped me achieve my duties.”
But Bin Mo’aili was unhappy with the work he was doing in Iraq.
“I was fed up of doing work that depends on lying and acting; therefore, I asked Hussein for permission to leave Iraq, but he refused.”
He said the Iraqi president requested him to stay three more years and gave him two cars and his own private house to stay in during that time.
Escaping in the uniform of a merchant
Bin Mo’aili said he left Iraq on Dec. 12, 1995, after the late Algerian President Ahmed Bin Bella said he should visit his family in Cairo and come back. Hussein accepted Bin Bella’s idea, on the condition that Bin Mo’aili return to Iraq within two months.
He went to Pakistan instead. He was there for three years, moving between the Asian continent and Europe, trading raw gold he said he brought from Africa.
He spoke about selling the shops he established by selling gold in Islamabad before returning once more to Yemen, alongside Abdulmalik Ismail, Yemen’s ambassador to Islamabad at that time. The money was transferred to Yemen, based on his passport, which is currently being held by the PSO.
“$800,000 was transferred to the International Bank in Sana’a, but I couldn’t draw a single cent because the Political Security took all the documents, which prove my ownership of the money.”
Humiliation and abducting a wife
Bin Mo’aili arrived back in Sana’a from Dubai on Aug. 24, 1998. His Kuwaiti wife Sara Jamal accompanied him. PSO officers arrested him 25 days later.
He was investigated and accused of being a spy for Saudi intelligence, based on statements the PSO linked to Jamal.
However, he said they didn’t allow Jamal to come and testify as to whether the claim was true or not. Instead, she was completely hidden. Today, nobody knows about her whereabouts either in Yemen or in Kuwait.
Bin Mo’aili said that his wife, 64, was living in the house of a high-ranking PSO officer before permanently disappearing.
After more than a year, he was released from the Political Security Prison, but he was imprisoned in the Central Prison after that. From there, he started having trouble with the Passport and Immigration Authority, which accused him of providing false data and also accused him of being a non-Yemeni without providing any testimonies.
A verdict issued by the Civil Status and Passports Prosecution on Jan. 18, 2003, stipulated that Bin Mo’aili be immediately released because his file, which was obtained by Yemen Times, shows there are no charges against him.
The Passports and Immigration Authority didn’t provide any documents to prove what it alleged against Bin Mo’aili, and he presented them with cards and passports proving his Yemeni citizenship.
The prosecution ordered the director of the Central Prison to release Bin Mo’aili, but these orders weren’t implemented.
Bin Mo’aili can’t travel
After six years of imprisonment, Bin Mo’aili filed his case against former President Saleh and the PSO.
Bin Mo’aili selected HOOD to defend him the alleged violations against him.
In 2007, Bin Mo’aili was released from prison and the verdict handed down by the Sana’a Court of Appeals indicated that he be compensated for what he endured. Thus far, he has received nothing.
He said all options are blocked for him. For now, he hoped that his passport will be released soon so that he will be able to fly to his families all around the Arab World.