The Committee to Protect Journalists protests the imprisonment of Abdel Karim al-Khaiwani, editor of the opposition weekly Al-Shoura, who began serving a one-year prison sentence on September 5.
On September 5, al-Khaiwani was convicted of incitement, insulting the president, publishing false news, and causing tribal and sectarian discrimination. Al-Khaiwani’s lawyer, Jamal al-Jaabi, told CPJ that al-Khaiwani was charged under both Yemen’s Press Law and Penal Code. The court also suspended Al-Shoura for six months.
Al-Jaabi said the charges against al-Khaiwani stemmed from nine opinion pieces published in the July 7 issue of the weekly, which was dedicated to discussing the Yemeni government’s fight against rebel cleric Hussein Badreddin al-Hawthi, who led a three-month uprising against authorities in the northern Yemeni region of Saada. Hundreds were reportedly killed during the uprising, and government forces killed al-Hawthi on September 10.
The articles, which were written by other newspaper staff members, were extremely critical of the government’s conduct and questioned its motives in engaging in an armed conflict against al-Hawthi and his supporters. For example, one of the pieces claimed that the government was creating terrorism with their actions, while another claimed that innocent people were being killed in the conflict.
Al-Jaabi said that al-Khaiwani was detained at Al-Shoura‘s offices late in the evening on September 5, the same day the court convicted him. Al-Jaabi said that the officers who arrested al-Khaiwani were dressed in plainclothes and did not provide a warrant when they came for him. Al-Jaabi told CPJ that he has already filed an appeal.
CPJ views al-Khaiwani’s imprisonment in retaliation for his newspapers’ published work as a flagrant violation of internationally recognized norms for freedom of expression. Journalists should never be imprisoned for what they write, even if their work offends authorities.
In June, Your Excellency announced that you would seek to end the penalty of imprisonment for press offenses, which would be a major step forward for press freedom in Yemen. We urge Your Excellency to fulfill that promise and to do everything in your power to ensure that Abdel Karim al-Khaiwani is immediately released from prison and that the charges against him are dropped.
Ann K. Cooper