Family of Yemeni blogger prosecuted for apostasy calls accusations 'unacceptable'
Ali Ali Qasim Al-Saeedi, the one-time general manager of budget and planning in the Supreme Judiciary Council, was arrested Nov. 26, under the jurisdiction of the Publishing and Print Court, a government body established to try journalists.
A representative of the prosecution accused him of being an "infidel," according to Al-Saeedi's oldest son, Mohammed. The prosecution also demanded he be removed from his home, dismissed from his job, imprisoned and executed.
“My father has asserted and insisted on his faith in God and the five pillars of Islam,” Mohammed said. “We were shocked by the prosecution's requirements. My father is not a journalist.”
Mohammed was clear in making the distinction between journalists and bloggers in order to argue the Publishing and Print Court cannot bring charges against him father, who is a blogger only.
Mohammed insists what is happening is illegal.
“The detention was based on the convictions and desires of a prosecution member. [It was made] without legal basis that could prove my father’s opinions contradict the rules of Islam.”
The son said the prosecution’s accusations are politically motivated and used to remove Al-Saeedi from his Budget and Planning post in the council.
“There are unacceptable procedures discriminately committed against my father,” he said. “There is no equality when you compare the procedures applied to other Yemenis.”
Al-Saeedi’s lawyer, Amen Hajar, extended this claim, saying there are those who want to rid Al-Saeedi from the Supreme Judiciary Council and are taking advantage of the prosecution and the judiciary as a form of retaliation.
“We advised others of such a situation early on. We call for deep reform of the judicial institution because it should be a means of defending peoples' rights and freedoms instead of being a weapon against freedoms and rights.”
Al-Saeedi has found support from those like Ali Al-Murqri, a novelist who said the apostasy accusations have more to do with politics than religion.
“The freedom to think and believe is a legal, human and international right. Putting Al-Saeedi on a trial is the same as putting every Yemeni on trial to punish their free thought and creativity,” Al-Murqri said.
Although the beleaguered blogger said he is Muslim, declared repentance and denounced his publications, the prosecution insists on presenting him to the court, according to Hajar.
But, Hajar said, this is a violation of term 259 in the law of Crimes and Penalties which stipulates, "Any apostate is to be executed after refusing to repent for three days, in addition to granting him one month reprieve. An open apostasy declaration includes actions and words that deliberately and stubbornly contradict the rules of Islam and its pillars. If the apostate is proved not to be deliberate and stubborn, the punishment is not applied as long as the apostate shows repentance.”
“Ali Al-Saeedi proclaims his repentance in court, saying that he is a Muslim and believes in God, his prophet and the angels. Therefore, his apostasy may have been fabricated by other people, or he posted his publications in ignorance of the punishment of apostasy,” Hajar said.
“What Al-Saeedi did are his intellectual convictions; he can write and publish what he wants, but if his publications are proved to be against the religious and legal disciplines, the court has the right to issue the decision according to the jurisprudence. However, if he repents and proclaims his repentance in court, the verdict is annulled," said Mohammed Al-Maswari, the head of Dhikr Foundation, a Yemeni chartable and religious foundation.
“Putting Al-Saeedi on a trial and separating him from his wife is the prosecution's demand. However, the verdict is the responsibility of the court. This gives him a big opportunity to defend himself with evidence,” he added.
Al–Saeedi was released from custody last Monday under the supervision of the court because of a health problem. He was hospitalized for complications resulting from recent kidney surgery, and his trial has been delayed until the coming Monday, according to his lawyer.