Letters   |   Yemen

Yemen should free Shaea, repudiate abuse

September 23, 2010 

His Excellency President Ali Abdullah Saleh
C/o Ambassador Abdul Wahab al-Hajjri
Embassy of the Republic of Yemen
2600 Virginia Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20037

Via e-mail: ambassador@yemenembassy.org

Your Excellency,

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to defending press freedom worldwide, calls on you to ensure the immediate release of Abdulelah Hider Shaea, a Yemeni journalist known for his coverage of Islamist groups, including Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. We also call on you to publicly repudiate the abusive treatment to which Shaea has been subjected while in state custody.

Armed security forces detained Shaea on August 16 after raiding his home, according to news reports. His house was searched and his laptop confiscated along with his notes.

According to the Yemeni Penal Code and Article 48 of the Constitution, detainees must be brought before a judge and informed of their charges within 24 hours. Yet Shaea was held incommunicado for 29 days  before his first hearing, on September 16. He has been allowed to see a lawyer only once since that hearing, according to the local human rights group Hood. 

This is the second time Shaea has been detained this year. On July 11, he was abducted by men who identified themselves as government agents. He was blindfolded and led to a basement in an unknown location, where he was interrogated for several hours about his friends and his reporting on Al-Qaeda, Shaea told CPJ in Yemen just hours after his release.

On September 22, the Specialized Criminal Court extended Shaea's detention for an additional 30 days "to complete the investigation," according to news reports. He is accused of "planning to carry out terrorist acts" and "providing media support to Al-Qaeda leadership," according to the same reports. (The specialized court's own constitutionality has been questioned by legal experts.)

Local journalists told CPJ that Shaea has an extensive network of sources in the military, government, and Islamist groups, allowing him a unique perspective on crucial security issues. In his frequent appearances on Al-Jazeera, Shaea has critically analyzed the government's responses to terrorist threats. Yet that does not mean Shaea is "providing media support" to extremist groups as the charges against him claim; critical analysis is not antistate activity.

Reporters and lawyers who attended Shaea's September 16 hearing said it was clear that Shaea had been abused during interrogation. Extensive brusing was evident on his body, they said. During the hearing, Shaea said he had been subjected to long hours of harsh interrogation during which he lost conciousness at times.

Mr. President, we urge you to instruct the proper authorities to release Shaea without delay, extend to him all rights under the law, repudiate his abusive treatment, and facilitate immediate medical traetment. Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,

Joel Simon
Executive Director

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