Fixer released, another held

New York, September 17, 2008–The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned that authorities in Yemen continue to hold a fixer in custody while releasing another. The two were picked up in July with a reporter for the U.S.-based television network HDNet.

Mohammed Ahmed Hassan al-Bokhaiti, an interpreter, was released on Sunday after spending almost two months in a prison in Sana’a, the capital, according to Willem Marx, the HDNet reporter who had worked with the fixers. Ali Nasser Gaid al-Bokhaiti, a driver, remains in prison. The two fixers are not related.

“We are relieved by the news that authorities have released Mohammed al-Bokhaiti,” CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney said, “but we call for the immediate release of Ali Nasser Gaid al-Bokhaiti, who has been held for nearly two months without charge.”

Marx said he received permission from the Ministry of Information to film in the country. He legally entered Yemen on July 15, he told CPJ. Both Ali and Mohammed al-Bokhaiti were registered with the Ministry of Tourism as Marx’s official guides, Marx said. The journalist had planned to travel via Marib to the northwest province of Saada, where the Yemeni government has battled a rebel insurgency for several years.

The fixers were detained with Marx on the outskirts of Sana’a on July 21 as they were en route to the ancient town of Marib. Marx was interrogated about his trip and work, and then deported, that same day, to Qatar without explanation. CPJ sent a letter to Yemen’s Minister of Interior, Motahar Rashad Al-Masri, in August urging the government to release the journalist’s driver and translator.