President pardons jailed editor

New York, March 23, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes today’s presidential pardon of a Yemeni editor who was jailed for nearly seven months for publishing opinion articles that strongly criticized the government.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh pardoned Abdelkarim al-Khawiani, editor of the opposition weekly Al-Shoura, a spokesman for Yemen’s embassy in Washington, D.C., told CPJ today. The spokesman, Mohammed al-Basha, said he did not have details of the pardon or the timing of al-Khaiwani’s release.

On Tuesday, a Yemeni appellate court upheld a one-year prison sentence against al-Khaiwani, who had been convicted in September 2004 of incitement, “insulting” Saleh, publishing false news, and causing tribal and sectarian discrimination. He had been charged in connection with opinion pieces published in his newspaper that condemned government’s fight against rebel cleric Hussein Badreddin al-Hawthi, who led a three-month uprising in the northern Yemeni region of Saada last summer before the army killed him in September.

Al-Shoura was also suspended from publication in September although the newspaper has since launched a successor publication, Sawt Al-Shoura. It is unclear whether today’s pardon reverses the ban against Al-Shoura.

“We welcome President Saleh’s pardon and look forward to our colleague’s release,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “But the fact remains that Abdelkarim a-Khaiwani should never have been jailed in the first place. We hope that Yemeni officials will use his release as an opportunity to take decisive action to eliminate laws that can be used to jail journalists for their work.”