Court upholds sentence against imprisoned journalist

New York, March 22, 2005—An appeals court in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, today upheld a one-year prison sentence imposed on the editor of an opposition weekly that published opinion pieces harshly critical of the government’s fight against a rebel cleric. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the ruling and called for the editor’s release.

Abdelkarim al-Khaiwani, editor of the now-dormant weekly Al-Shoura, was jailed on September 5, 2004, after being convicted of incitement, “insulting” Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, publishing false news, and causing tribal and sectarian discrimination. Al-Shoura was also suspended from publication.

The charges stemmed from commentaries published last summer that condemned government actions against the cleric, Hussein Badreddin al-Hawthi. The cleric led a three-month uprising in the northern Yemeni region of Saada before the army killed him in September.

Jamal al-Jaabi, al-Khaiwani’s lawyer, told CPJ that today’s court session was cursory and the appellate panel made its decision without hearing oral arguments. Al-Jaabi said the case will be appealed to the Supreme Court, but he is not optimistic about the prospects.

The chief judge also ordered the prosecutor to question seven journalists who now work for Sawt Al-Shoura, the opposition weekly that succeeded Al-Shoura, The Associated Press reported. The judge ordered that they be questioned about articles published in Al-Shoura.