Yemen: Editor detained on terrorism allegations

New York, June 20, 2007–The Committee to Protect Journalists called on Yemeni authorities to detail terrorism accusations it has leveled against an opposition newspaper editor detained today by government forces at his home in the capital, Sana’a.

At around noon on Wednesday, Yemeni security agents raided the home of Abdelkarim al-Khaiwani, editor of the online newspaper Al-Shoura, which is affiliated with the Popular Forces Union Party, several Yemeni journalists and local news reports said. Al-Khaiwani was brought before a state security prosecutor charged with handling terrorism cases. He is under investigation for allegedly having ties to a terrorist cell associated with rebels fighting government forces in the northwestern city of Saada, journalists and news reports said. The prosecutor ordered al-Khaiwani held for the next seven days, those sources said.

“We are troubled by the detention of Abdelkarim al-Khaiwani, and call on officials to publicly disclose the evidence used to hold him,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “While the accusations are serious, we remain concerned that al-Khawiani is being punished for his outspokenness.”

According to Yemeni press reports, al-Khaiwani is being investigated for alleged ties to 16 men and two women recently arrested for belonging to a terrorist cell in Sana’a said to be affiliated with rebel leader Abdel Malik al-Hawthi. Over the last three years, Al-Hawthi, his family members, and their followers have battled Yemeni government forces in Saada. Fighting was heavy until a ceasefire was reached in recent days.

Al-Khaiwani has been a harsh critic of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and, in particular, his government’s fight against the rebels.

In 2004, as editor of what was then a print weekly, al-Khaiwani was sentenced to a year in jail for incitement, insulting the president, publishing false news, and causing tribal and sectarian discrimination. Articles had criticized the government’s conduct in the fighting and had accused it of fostering terrorism with its actions.