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In Yemen, disappeared journalist claims he was tortured

New York, February 5, 2010—Muhammad al-Maqaleh, editor of the opposition Yemeni Socialist Party’s news Web site Aleshteraki, who was detained in September has finally appeared in government custody. He is being held without charges, local news outlets reported, and alleges that he has been tortured.

Al-Maqaleh was detained by unidentified men in Sana’a after writing an article for Aleshteraki criticizing airstrikes that killed 87 people and injured more than 100 in the northwestern Saada region, where the military has been battling rebels, local journalists told CPJ.

“Muhammad al-Maqaleh was effectively kidnapped by the authorities for his reporting and vanished without trace in Yemen’s notorious prison system,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa Coordinator. “He should be released immediately and the government should investigate his claim of torture and bring those responsible to justice.”

The journalist was allowed to talk to his family on the phone for the first time on January 31. Authorities also allowed Marwan Damaj, secretary of the Yemeni Journalist Syndicate, to visit him in prison on Monday. Al-Maqaleh was “tortured, beaten, and threatened with death several times” when the men detained him, Damaj told CPJ.

“Al-Maqaleh recounted the harsh conditions of his detention,” Damaj told CPJ. “He was severely beaten and was left wearing the same bloodied clothes for three months. They made him sit on a chair for a prolonged time while his abductors talked about all the ways in which they would kill him. He looks very frail and very tired. We have requested that the authorities give him a thorough medical examination.”

According to defense lawyer Hael Salam, the prosecution has not yet filed any charges against Al-Maqaleh. “Security forces are still questioning my client about the articles he published but so far no charges have been officially filed,” Salam told CPJ. He did not comment on the allegations of torture.

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