Jump to content
Islamic Forum
Sign in to follow this  

Yemeni Journalist Jailed For Reporting Us War Crimes

Recommended Posts

Salaam / Peace


Yemen: Yemeni journalist on trial for terrorist links after exposing US bomb-raid in December 2009


26 October 2010



Alkarama condemns the Yemeni authorities' continued maltreatment of Abdul Ilah Haydar Sha'i. Mr Sha'i, a journalist from Sanaa, was detained in the capital's State Security prison after openly criticising Yemen's role in the so-called "War on Terror". He is known for having exposed a massacre caused by an American bombing raid, which killed tens of civilian in late 2009.


Mr. Sha'i appeared, for the first time, before a Yemeni court specialising in "terrorism and state security" in Sanaa on Tuesday 26 October 2010. His lawyers, attended in the hearing out of solidarity but refused to plead before the court, considering it "unconstitutional" and "before which the standards of justice are not met", whose goal is "simply to whitewash the secret services' violations of the accused rights".


Following Mr Sha'i's hearing, Alkarama's delegate in Yemen gathered with several journalists and members of the local and foreign media in the court room out of solidarity for Mr Sha'i. The gathering was in response to call from the Yemeni Journalists' Union and the "6 Ramadan Alliance", an alliance of lawyers, human rights activists and journalists.


The prosecutor charged Mr. Sha'i, and another citizen being tried, Abdul Karim Ashami, with "belonging to an illegal armed group and working for the benefit of a terrorist organisation". It is the exact same accusation used by the Yemeni authorities to excuse the violations committed by the Yemeni secret services under the pretext of the so-called "War on Terror".


Lawyers, journalists, and human rights activists in Yemen, all consider the accusations against Mr. Sha'i to be "politically motivated". Such fabricated accusations are used to scare journalists from revealing facts regarding on-going human rights violations, particularly those linked to the American bombing raid over parts of Yemen, said to have targeted "presumed terrorists" - however the victims turned out to be innocent civilians.


Since December 2009, American and Yemeni planes have been carrying out intermittent airstrikes against tribal areas of Yemen, which have killed and wounded tens of people, most of which are women and children. The airstrikes used cluster bombs, which are banned according to international law. Abdul Ilah Haydar Sha'i was the first to cover these events in the media and reveal the identities of the victims.


It is clear from the minutes of the charges levied against Mr. Sha'i and Mr Ashami that the evidence used consists of electronic communications, which the prosecution claims to have taken place between Mr Sha'i and people wanted in suspicion of links to terrorism groups. The implications are that Mr Sha'i's arrest and torture were used in order to reveal his supposed "terrorist" links. The goal of the trial was to simply whitewash the violations which took place throughout his detention.

During the first hearing, Mr. Sha'i and Mr Ashami rejected the authority of the court due to the "illegal" practices which led to their imprisonment. They demanded that a court investigate the violations against them, starting with their arbitrary arrest, followed by their 35-day disappearance, during which they were subjected to physical torture. However, the court's judge did not heed these demands, and defended the security forces' practices, going so far as to call them "legal".


When the judge did not heed Mr. Sha'i's demands for an investigation into the allegations of human rights violations carried out by the security services, Mr Sha'i turned his back on the court, facing the journalists and media representatives, and said: "The decision to arrest me was taken on 27 December 2009, when I exposed the killings of children and women in Al-Mu`jila in Abyan and in the Rufud area in Shabwa and in Arhab north of Sanaa, which were all targeted by American plans, under the pretext of the so-called "War on Terror"".


The Yemeni police arrested Abdul Ilah Haydar Sha'i for the first time on 11 July 2010 in Sanaa, and later released him after six hours of questioning. He was then detained another time at his home on 16 August 2010 and was detained in a secret jail belonging to the National Security forces in Sanaa. He was made disappeared for 35 days before being taken to a detention centre belonging to the Political Security forces.


According to his lawyers, who were allowed to see him during the interrogation sessions at the Political Security headquarters, he bore the marks of torture on his chest and other parts of his body and one of his teeth was broken.

The arrest and forced disappearance of Mr Sha'i set off a wave of counter-actions both locally and internationally. Among these, Alkarama addressed two urgent appeals to the Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Special Rapporteur for the Protection and Promotion of the Right to Freedom of Expression and Opinion asking them to intervene in his case.


Sha'i's lawyers say that the Yemeni authorities are trying to whitewash the violations committed by National Security and Political Security apparatus, by giving him an unfair trial before the "Penal Court Specialising in State Security".

On the same day Reporters Without Borders issued a report condemning, in the strongest possible terms, the charges levied against the journalist Abdul Ilah Haydar Sha'i and demanded his immediate release.


Reporters Without Borders is quoted as having said that "Mr Sha'i has been detained in an iniquitous manner that contravenes all the legal principles in place in Yemen. Moreover, his physical condition has been undermined through mistreatment, torture and solitary confinement. As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights since 1987, Yemen should respect his right to a fair trial."


On Monday 25 October 2010, journalists, lawyers and human rights activists organised a solidarity conference entitled "The Detention of Abdul Ilah Haydar Sha'i - American demands, or a political decision?!", during which the participants demanded the release of Mr. Sha'i and warned against the spread of human rights violations in the country under the pretext of the so-called "War on Terror".


Alkarama is extremely concerned by the number of increasing attacks against journalists in Yemen, and the spread of human rights violations in general, and the efforts to silence voices opposing the inhumane and repressive policies used by the government in the context Yemen's so-called "War on Terror", and demands that the Yemeni government to immediately release all arbitrary detainees in the prisons of Security and the Secret Services, and to cease the practice extrajudicial executions, and open a independent inquiry into the allegations of torture at the hands of the Yemeni security forces.


Link from http://en.alkarama.o...niqu&Itemid=216



democracynow.org - The Obama administration is facing scrutiny for its role in the imprisonment of a Yemeni journalist who exposed how the United States was behind a 2009 bombing in Yemen that killed 14 women and 21 children. In January 2011, a Yemeni state security court gave the journalist, Abdulelah Haider Shaye, a five-year jail sentence on terrorism-related charges following a disputed trial that was condemned by several human rights and press freedom groups. Within a month of Shaye's sentencing, then-Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced he was going to pardon the journalist. But Saleh changed his mind after a phone call from President Obama. Thirteen months later, Shaye remains behind bars. We speak to Mohamed Abdel Dayem of the Committee to Protect Journalists and award-winning investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill.





Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Why Is President Obama Keeping a Journalist in Prison in Yemen?

Jeremy Scahill

March 13, 2012


On February 2, 2011, President Obama called Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The two discussed counterterrorism cooperation and the battle against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. At the end of the call, according to a White House read-out, Obama “expressed concern” over the release of a man named Abdulelah Haider Shaye, whom Obama said “had been sentenced to five years in prison for his association with AQAP.” It turned out that Shaye had not yet been released at the time of the call, but Saleh did have a pardon for him prepared and was ready to sign it. It would not have been unusual for the White House to express concern about Yemen’s allowing AQAP suspects to go free. Suspicious prison breaks of Islamist militants in Yemen had been a regular occurrence over the past decade, and Saleh has been known to exploit the threat of terrorism to leverage counterterrorism dollars from the United States. But this case was different. Abdulelah Haider Shaye is not an Islamist militant or an Al Qaeda operative. He is a journalist.


Unlike most journalists covering Al Qaeda, Shaye risked his life to travel to areas controlled by Al Qaeda and to interview its leaders. He also conducted several interviews with the radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki. Shaye did the last known interview with Awlaki just before it was revealed that Awlaki, a US citizen, was on a CIA/JSOC hit list. “We were only exposed to Western media and Arab media funded by the West, which depicts only one image of Al Qaeda,” recalls his best friend Kamal Sharaf, a well-known dissident Yemeni political cartoonist. “But Abdulelah brought a different viewpoint.”


Shaye had no reverence for Al Qaeda, but viewed the group as an important story, according to Sharaf. Shaye was able to get access to Al Qaeda figures in part due to his relationship, through marriage, to the radical Islamic cleric Abdul Majid al Zindani, the founder of Iman University and a US Treasury Department–designated terrorist. While Sharaf acknowledged that Shaye used his connections to gain access to Al Qaeda, he adds that Shaye also “boldly” criticized Zindani and his supporters: “He said the truth with no fear.”


While Shaye, 35, had long been known as a brave, independent-minded journalist in Yemen, his collision course with the US government appears to have been set in December 2009. On December 17, the Yemeni government announced that it had conducted a series of strikes against an Al Qaeda training camp in the village of al Majala in Yemen’s southern Abyan province, killing a number of Al Qaeda militants. As the story spread across the world, Shaye traveled to al Majala. What he discovered were the remnants of Tomahawk cruise missiles and cluster bombs, neither of which are in the Yemeni military’s arsenal. He photographed the missile parts, some of them bearing the label “Made in the USA,” and distributed the photos to international media outlets. He revealed that among the victims of the strike were women, children and the elderly. To be exact, fourteen women and twenty-one children were killed. Whether anyone actually active in Al Qaeda was killed remains hotly contested. After conducting his own investigation, Shaye determined that it was a US strike. The Pentagon would not comment on the strike and the Yemeni government repeatedly denied US involvement. But Shaye was later vindicated when Wikileaks released a US diplomatic cable that featured Yemeni officials joking about how they lied to their own parliament about the US role, while President Saleh assured Gen. David Petraeus that his government would continue to lie and say “the bombs are ours, not yours.”


Seven months after the Majala bombing, in July 2010, Sharaf and Shaye were out running errands. Sharaf popped into a supermarket, while Shaye waited outside. When Sharaf came out of the store, he recalls, “I saw armed men grabbing him and taking him to a car.” The men, it turned out, were Yemeni intelligence agents. They snatched Shaye, hooded him and took him to an undisclosed location. The agents, according to Sharaf, threatened Shaye and warned him against making further statements on TV. Shaye’s reports on the Majala bombing and his criticism of the US and Yemeni governments, Sharaf said, “pushed the regime to kidnap him. One of the interrogators told him, ‘We will destroy your life if you keep on talking about this issue.’” Eventually, in the middle of the night, Shaye was dumped back onto a street and released. “Abdulelah was threatened many times over the phone by the Political Security and then he was kidnapped for the first time, beaten and investigated over his statements and analysis on the Majala bombing and the US war against terrorism in Yemen,” says Shaye’s lawyer, Abdulrahman Barman. “I believe he was arrested upon a request from the US.”


Shaye responded to his abduction by going back on al Jazeera and describing his own arrest. “Abdulelah continued to report facts, not for the sake of the Americans or Al Qaeda, but because he believed that what he was reporting was the truth and that it is a journalist’s role to uncover the truth,” says Sharaf. “He is a very professional journalist,” he adds. “He is rare in the journalistic environment in Yemen where 90 percent of journalists write extempore and lack credibility.” Shaye, he explains, is “very open-minded and rejects extremism. He was against violence and the killing of innocents in the name of Islam. He was also against killing innocent Muslims with pretext of fighting terrorism. In his opinion, the war on terror should have been fought culturally, not militarily. He believes using violence will create more violence and encourage the spread of more extremist currents in the region.”


In the meantime, Sharaf was encountering his own troubles with the Yemeni regime over his drawings of President Saleh and his criticism of the Yemeni government’s war against the minority Houthi population in the north of Yemen. He had also criticized conservative Salafis. And he was Shaye’s best friend.

On August 6, 2010, Sharaf and his family had just broken the Ramadan fast when he heard shouting from outside his home: “Come out, the house is surrounded.” Sharaf walked outside. “I saw soldiers I had never seen before. They were tall and heavy—they reminded me of American Marines. Then, I knew that they were from the counterterrorism unit. They had modern laser guns. They were wearing American Marine–type uniforms,” he recalls. They told Sharaf he was coming with them. “What is the accusation?” he asked. “They said, ‘You’ll find out.’ ”

As Sharaf was being arrested, Yemeni forces had surrounded Shaye’s home as well. “Abdulelah refused to come out, so they raided his house, took him by force, beat him and broke his tooth,” Sharaf says. “We were both taken blindfolded and handcuffed to the national security prison, which is supported by the Americans.” They were separated and thrown in dark, underground cells, says Sharaf. “We were kept for about thirty days during Ramadan in the national security prison where we were continuously interrogated.”


For that first month, Sharaf and Shaye did not see each other. Eventually, they were taken from the national security prison to Yemen’s Political Security prison, where they were put in a cell together. “We were transferred to the political security prison built by Saddam Hussein, his gift to Yemen,” he says. “We were moved from the American gift to the Iraqi gift.” (The Nation could not independently verify Sharaf’s claim of an Iraqi role in the building of the prison. And while the US trains and supports Yemen’s counterterrorism force, it is not clear if that aid has been used for the national security prison). Sharaf was eventually released, after he pledged to the authorities that he would not draw any more cartoons of President Saleh. Shaye would make no such deal.

Shaye was held in solitary confinement for thirty-four days with no access to a lawyer. His family did not even know where he had been taken or why. Eventually, his lawyers received a tip from a released prisoner that Shaye was in the Political Security prison and they were able to see him. “When Abdulelah was arrested, he was put in a narrow dirty and foul smelling bathroom for five days. I noticed that one of Abdulelah’s teeth was extracted and another one was broken, in addition to presence of some scars on his chest,” recalls Barman. “There were a lot scars on his chest. He was psychologically tortured. He had been told that all his friends and family members had left him and that no one had raised his case. He was tortured by false information.”


On September 22, Shaye was eventually hauled into a court. Prosecutors asked for more time to prepare a case against him. A month later, in late October, he was locked in a cage in Yemen’s state security court, which was established by presidential decree and has been roundly denounced as illegal and unfair, as a judge read out a list of charges against him. He was accused of being the “media man” for Al Qaeda, recruiting new operatives for the group and providing Al Qaeda with photos of Yemeni bases and foreign embassies for potential targeting. “The government filed many charges against him,” says Barman. “Some of these charges were: joining an armed group aiming to target the stability and security of the country, inciting Al Qaeda members to assassinate President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his son, recruiting new Al Qaeda members, working as propagandist for Al Qaeda and Anwar Al-Awlaki in particular. Most of these charges carry the death sentence under Yemeni law.” As the charges against him were read, according to journalist Iona Craig, a longtime foreign correspondent based in Yemen who reports regularly for the Times of London, Shaye “paced slowly around the white cell, smiling and shaking his head in disbelief.”


When the judge finished reading the charges against him, Shaye stood behind the bars of the holding cell and addressed his fellow journalists. “When they hid murderers of children and women in Abyan, when I revealed the locations and camps of nomads and civilians in Abyan, Shabwa and Arhab when they were going to be hit by cruise missiles, it was on that day they decided to arrest me,” he declared. “You notice in the court how they have turned all of my journalistic contributions into accusations. All of my journalistic contributions and quotations to international reporters and news channels have been turned into accusations.” As security guards dragged him away, Shaye yelled, “Yemen, this is a place where, when a young journalist becomes successful, he is viewed with suspicion.”


In January 2011, Shaye was convicted of terrorism-related charges and sentenced to five years in prison, followed by two years of restricted movement and government surveillance. Throughout his trial, Shaye refused to recognize the legitimacy of the court and refused to present a legal defense. Human Rights Watch said the specialized court where Shaye was tried “failed to meet international standards of due process,” while his lawyers argue that the little “evidence” that was presented against him relied overwhelmingly on fabricated documents. “What happened was a political not judicial decision. It has no legal basis,” says Barman, Shaye’s lawyer, who boycotted the trial. “Having witnessed his trial I can say it was a complete farce,” says Craig.


Several international human rights groups condemned the trial as a sham and an injustice. “There are strong indications that the charges against [shaye] are trumped up and that he has been jailed solely for daring to speak out about US collaboration in a cluster munitions attack which took place in Yemen,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.


There is no doubt that Shaye was reporting facts that both the Yemeni and US government wanted to suppress. He was also interviewing people Washington was hunting. While the US and Yemeni governments alleged that he was a facilitator for Al Qaeda propaganda, close observers of Yemen disagree. “It is difficult to overestimate the importance of his work,” says Gregory Johnsen, a Yemen scholar at Princeton University who had communicated regularly with Shaye since 2008. “Without Shaye’s reports and interviews we would know much less about Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula than we do, and if one believes, as I do, that knowledge of the enemy is important to constructing a strategy to defeat them, then his arrest and continued detention has left a hole in our knowledge that has yet to be filled.”


As the US ratcheted up its efforts to assassinate the radical cleric Anwar Awlaki, among the charges leveled against him was that he praised the actions of the alleged Fort Hood shooter, Maj. Nidal Hasan. A key source for those statements was an interview with Awlaki conducted by Shaye broadcast on Al Jazeera in December 2009. Far from coming off as sympathetic, Shaye’s interview was objective and seemed aimed at actually getting answers. Among the questions he asked Awlaki: How can you agree with what Nidal did as he betrayed his American nation? Why did you bless the acts of Nidal Hasan? Do you have any connection with the incident directly? Shaye also confronted Awlaki with inconsistencies from Awlaki’s previous interviews. If anything, Shaye’s interviews with Awlaki provided the US intelligence community and the politicians and pro-assassination punditry with ammunition to support their campaign to kill Awlaki. (Awlaki was killed in a US drone strike on September 30, 2011.)


After Shaye was convicted and sentenced, tribal leaders intensified their pressure on President Saleh to issue a pardon. “Some prominent Yemenis and tribal sheikhs visited the president to mediate in the issue and the president agreed to release and pardon him,” recalls Barman. “We were waiting for the release of the pardon—it was printed out and prepared in a file for the president to sign and announce the next day.” Word of the impending pardon leaked in the Yemeni press. “That same day,” Barman says, “the president [saleh] received a phone call from Obama expressing US concerns over the release of Abdulelah Haider.” Saleh rescinded the pardon.


“Certainly Shaye’s reports were an embarrassment for the US and Yemeni government, because at a time when both governments were seeking and failing to kill key leaders within AQAP, this single journalist with his camera and computer was able to locate these same leaders and interview them,” says Johnsen. “There is no publicly available evidence to suggest that Abdulelah was anything other than a journalist attempting to do his job, and it remains unclear why the US or Yemeni government refuse to present the evidence they claim to possess.”


In February, Shaye began a brief hunger strike to protest his imprisonment, ending it after his family expressed serious concerns about his deteriorating health. While international media organizations, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Federation of Journalists and Reporters Without Borders, have called for Shaye’s release, his case has received scant attention in the United States. Yemeni journalists, human rights activists and lawyers have said he remains in jail at the request of the White House. Some had hoped that when President Saleh stepped down earlier this year, Shaye might be released.

That seems unlikely if the US government has any say in the matter. “We are standing by [President Obama’s] comments from last February,” State Department spokesperson Beth Gosselin told The Nation. “We remain concerned about Shaye’s potential release due to his association with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. We stand by the president’s comments.” When asked whether the US government should present evidence to support its claims about Shaye’s association with AQAP, Gosselin said, “That is all we have to say about this case.”


When Craig recently questioned the US ambassador to Yemen, Gerald Feierstein, about Shaye’s case, she says Feierstein laughed at the question before answering. “Shaye is in jail because he was facilitating Al Qaeda and its planning for attacks on Americans and therefore we have a very direct interest in his case and his imprisonment,” he said. When Craig mentioned the shock waves it had sent through the journalism community in Yemen, Feierstein replied, “This isn’t anything to do with journalism, it is to do with the fact that he was assisting Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and if they [Yemeni journalists] are not doing that they don’t have anything to worry about from us.”


For many journalists in Yemen, the publicly available “facts” about how Shaye was “assisting” AQAP indicate that simply interviewing Al Qaeda–associated figures, or reporting on civilian deaths caused by US strikes, is a crime in the view of the US government. “I think the worst thing about the whole case is that not only is an independent journalist being held in proxy detention by the US,” says Craig, “but that they’ve successfully put paid to other Yemeni journalists investigating air strikes against civilians and, most importantly, holding their own government to account. Shaye did both of those things.” She adds: “With the huge increase in government air strikes and US drone attacks recently, Yemen needs journalists like Shaye to report on what’s really going on.”


Taken from here: http://www.thenation...st-prison-yemen

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

...To be exact, fourteen women and twenty-one children were killed....



Always 'women and children'. Aren't there any men over there ? Who's helping 'make' these kids ?

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Killing of women and Children is highlighted more as most of the times they do not get directly involved in the fighting. If someone can justify mass murder of women and Children, mentioning murder of just men to him/her is fruitless.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Killing of women and Children is highlighted more as most of the times they do not get directly involved in the fighting. If someone can justify mass murder of women and Children, mentioning murder of just men to him/her is fruitless.



I'm not 'justifying' anything. I'm questioning the accuracy and motives of the 'facts'. Especially when the words 'war crimes' never appears in the 'articles'. Put that in there on your own, didn't you ? :lol:

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Sign in to follow this