Amnesty demands reporter's release

Journalist still in Yemeni prison

GMT 17:41 2012 Wednesday ,15 August

Arab Today, arab today Journalist still in Yemeni prison

Abdul Ilah Haydar Shayi
Sanaa - Arabstoday

Abdul Ilah Haydar Shayi Sanaa - Arabstoday Human rights watchdog Amnesty International has appealed for the release of a US journalist who has been imprisoned in Yemen for two years after he alleged US involvement in fatal air strikes and the use of cluster bombs in the country. Thursday marks two years since Abdul Ilah Haydar Shayi’, an investigative journalist specialising in counter-terrorism affairs, was arrested at his home in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, on charges of links to al-Qaeda. He was sentenced to five years in prison in January last year. Ousted Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh issued an order to free him last February, but it was not carried out after US President Barack Obama expressed concern over the journalist’s release. Shayi’s lawyers and Yemeni activists have claimed the charges against him were fabricated as a result of his investigative journalism. “Ever since his arrest and trial, there are strong indications that Abdul Ilah Haydar Shayi’ was targeted for revealing evidence of the US role in a cluster bomb attack that killed dozens of residents,” said Hassiba Hadj-Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International. “The charges on which he was convicted appear to be based on what he has done as part of his legitimate activities as a journalist. As such his conviction must be set aside and he should be released.”  Shayi’ was convicted on several charges including communicating with “wanted men”, joining a military group and acting as a media consultant to al-Qaeda. After serving his five-year jail term, he will also be banned from travel for two years. The journalist himself does not deny having had contact with members of al-Qaeda but said that this was in relation to his work as an investigative reporter. His lawyers state the prosecution submitted no convincing evidence that their client had worked with or supported al-Qaeda. The defence have however refused to appeal his conviction, citing concerns about the legitimacy of the court and the fairness of his trial. From the time of his arrest until September 11 2010, Shayi was held incommunicado and he told his lawyers and others who were present at one of the court sessions that he was beaten during that time, leading to chest injuries, bruising on his body and a broken tooth. He was the first Yemeni journalist to allege US involvement in a December 2009 missile attack on the community of al-Majalah, the site of what the government claimed to be an al-Qaeda training camp in southern Yemen’s Abyan area. Shortly after the attack – which killed 41 local residents, including 21 children and 14 women – he wrote articles and spoke to Qatari news channel Al Jazeera and newspapers. In addition 14 alleged al-Qaeda members were also reported to have been killed in the missile attack. Yemen's government initially said its forces had acted alone in the attack on al-Majalah, but shortly afterwards US media outlets published alleged statements by anonymous US government sources claiming President Obama approved the use of US missiles being fired at two alleged al-Qaeda sites in Yemen. In June 2010 Amnesty released images of a US-manufactured Tomahawk cruise missile that carried cluster sub-munitions, apparently taken near al-Majalah after the December 2009 airstrike. The organisation further claimed that such missiles were only known to be held by the US forces at that time and that Yemeni armed forces were unlikely to be capable of using such a missile. This finding was later corroborated when WikiLeaks released a US diplomatic cable confirming that US forces had carried out the attack. Cluster munitions – also known as cluster bombs – have indiscriminate effects and unexploded bomblets threaten lives and livelihoods for years after their use. A global treaty banning the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster bombs entered into force on August 1 2010 and has 75 states parties to date. Neither Yemen nor the USA has joined the treaty.

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