July 3, 2002 His Excellency President Ali Abdullah Saleh
C/o His Excellency Ambassador Abdul Wahab al-Hajjri
Embassy of the Republic of Yemen
2600 Virginia Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20037
Via facsimile: 202-337-2017 Your Excellency:
The Committee to Protect Journalists is writing to protest the ongoing detention of free-lance journalists Ibrahim Hussein and Abdel Rahim Mohsen.
On June 21, plainclothes police officers arrested Hussein the office of the Yemeni Unionist Party, according to CPJ sources. Mohsen was arrested at his home on May 23.
The two men have been held incommunicado since their arrests and were only allowed to meet with their lawyers on Monday, July 1, at the office of a state prosecutor in charge of handling press cases.
According to Jamal al-Jaabi, the journalists' lawyer, the two were charged yesterday, July 2, in a court in the capital, Sana'a, with "harming national unity" and "inciting racial, sectarian, or tribal discrimination," a violation of Article 103 of the Press Law.
However, al-Jaabi was not present at the hearing because he was never notified of the proceedings, he told CPJ.
If convicted, the journalists each face up to one year in prison. The case is adjourned until July 7.
The charges against the journalists stem from several newspaper articles they have written during the last several months. According to al-Jaabi, at the July 1 meeting, the prosecutor displayed files containing dozens of articles published in the weekly newspapers Al Osboa and Al-Thawri, including some that criticized alleged government corruption, human rights abuses, and restrictions on civil liberties.
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of press freedom worldwide, CPJ believes that journalists should never be jailed for what they write. Over the years, Yemeni courts have continued to punish independent and opposition media by arresting and criminally prosecuting journalists under the country's Press Law and Penal Code.
We respectfully call on Your Excellency to do everything within your power to ensure that Ibrahim Hussein and Abdel Rahim Mohsen are released immediately and that the charges against them are dropped. Furthermore, we urge you to work toward repealing statutes in the Press Law and the Penal Code that allow journalists to be criminally prosecuted and jailed.
We thank you for your attention to these urgent matters and await your response.