Prosecuting an infamous murder

Published on 10 September 2012 in Report
Samar Qaed (author), Samar Qaed (photographer)

Samar Qaed


Samar Qaed

The Court of Appeals began hearing the case Saturday.

The Court of Appeals began hearing the case Saturday.

The Court of Appeals in Sana’a on Saturday started prosecuting those accused of killing many people in Sana’a’s Change Square on March 18, 2011, in what was called the Friday of Dignity (Jummat Al-Karama).

For the first time since President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi was nominated to his post, the relatives of the victims and their lawyers attended a hearing.

Judge Abdulwali Al-Sha’bani, chief judge of the court, called out the names of 78 people charged in the case. However, only seven defendants were standing on the dock, which raised anger among the relatives of the dead.

Also for the first time, media was allowed to take photos, but photos were only allowed prior to the start of the hearing. After that, writing was forbidden within the courtroom. Neither evidences nor eyewitnesses were presented against the defendants.

The rest of the defendants were released earlier under a guarantee and couldn’t attend the hearing because they were abroad or because of health reasons, the defense attorney said.

The hearing was then moved to Sept. 29. Lawyers of the victims requested a copy of the case to know the procedures and acts taken since the beginning of the investigation. The chief judge required the General Prosecution to bring all defendants who have been released under guarantee to attend the upcoming hearing.

Mohammed Al-Maswari, head of the lawyers appointed to stand by the side of the defendants, said 90 percent of the defendants in the dock are innocent and they only belong to the neighborhoods where the crime occurred.

“Real criminals were released after the first day by the First Armored Division FAD; it is clear to us,” he said.

Al-Maswari, who represented former President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the Al-Nahdain Mosque trial, said the relatives of the victims have been refusing to attend the hearings for eighteen months because they are certain the defendants are innocent.

“A year and a half after the murder, some of the relatives started to change their minds and accuse those imprisoned defendants of committing murder,” he said. “This indicates that there is a political attempt to prove the innocent people as guilty.”

“This case must be given priority and be investigated again to save the lives of innocent people and to find out the real perpetrators, with no exception.”

Al-Maswari accused the General Prosecution of several illegal procedures such as forgery, he said.

“Some people were given two options: either to be a witness or a defendant. There are attempts to change the direction of the case.”

Al-Maswari and the rest of the lawyers filed a case against what they say were illegal procedures taken by the General Prosecution.

“We filed a case against the investigation committee—composed of four people—and members of the General Prosecution because they committed forgery,” he said.

Mohammed Al-Bawraki, a defendant released under guarantee and who attended the hearing, said, “We have been prosecuted secretly for more than eighteen months. Our families don’t know about the hearings and also no one of those who represent public opinion attended.”

“I was called in by the general prosecutor two months after the incident and then Mohammed Aiash, the general prosecutor’s undersecretary, investigated me and made me testify against people I don’t know. He told me that I have to testify against those people if I want to be released. When I refused, he sent me to prison for four months and after that I was released under guarantee,” Al-Bawraki said.

Abdulwali Al-Maweri said his brother has been arbitrarily detained for more than fifteen months. He wasn’t at the scene of the crime, he said.

“Based on names they have, the people in Sana’a’s Change Square took my brother and are still occupying our home on Al-Dairi Street.”

“In spite of the orders given by the general prosecutor to evacuate the house, they are still occupying it. I demand that they compensate us for the loss we sustained,” he added.

Haj Ali Ahmed Al-Jabri was sitting in the waiting hall, telling journalists the story of his son, Tareq.

“The names of the murderers were published in the official newspaper,” Al-Jabri said. “Therefore, according to the orders of the interior minister, I took my son to Brigadier Rizq Al-Jawfi, Sana’a’s Security Chief at that time, who promised that my son will be investigated and released within two hours. Now he has been imprisoned for more than sixteen months.”

“My house is located near the square. Some of the witnesses told me later that they were forced to include my son’s name among the defendants.”

Wael Al-Sanabani, the brother of one of the defendants, said his brother opposed the presence of youth in Sana’a’s Change Square because he had to close his shop and sustained heavy profit losses. After the Friday of Dignity, anonymous people attacked him, and after that he was imprisoned in the First Armored Division’s prison for 17 days.

Al-Sanabani said the chief judge pledged to release his brother many times, but he has yet to be released.

Ahmed Al-Ghail, head of the Youth Without Chains Organization, said 18 snipers were arrested that day and handed over to the FAD. Their names were declared in Suhail Channel. So where are they now?

“Among the 18 snipers, there were snipers from the FAD like Abdullah Ali Al-Mekhlafi, an officer who was seen with other eight soldiers, but later, he was killed on Amran’s Bridge during the clashes that broke out between the police forces and the FAD. Why hasn’t Ali Mohsen, commander of the FAD handed them over?” he asked.

Sadeq Al-Hamdani, a member of the organizing committee in Change Square, said it is untrue defendants were taken by force.

“We arrested them and handed them to the FAD and the general prosecutor, but most of them were later released,” Al-Hamdani said. “Some of the people on the dock were arrested in the incident.”

Abduljalil Shuja’a Al-Deen, a lawyer defending the victims, said, “The court calls those on the dock defendants, but we aren’t convinced because there are still perpetrators who were released by the former regime.”

Shuja’a Al-Deen asserted that getting 78 defendants out of prison obstructed the progress of the case. He said there is evidence against each person who was on the dock.

“Most of the escapees rented their houses for defendants before murdering the protestors,” Al-Deen said. “They are charged since they participated in the crime.”

Ahmed Al-Sheikh, father of 29-year-old Friday of Dignity victim Saqr, demanded fair prosecution against the defendants. He threatened to quit the hearings if the court didn’t reveal the real perpetrators.

Talal, brother of Maher Rizq Maher, also a victim, said the real defendants didn’t attend the hearing. He demanded those charged with the murder be brought to the court, including those who planned and funded the murder.

Abdulnasser Al-Saqqaf, an activist in Sana’a’s Change Square, said, “We attended the hearing to fulfill our pledges in remaining faithful to those victims of the revolution until achieving all aims of the revolution and prosecuting all perpetrators.”