CPJ condemns assault on imprisoned Yemeni editor

New York, April 13, 2010The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by recent reports that a Yemeni editor, detained without charge since May 2009 for covering unrest in the southern part of the country, was assaulted by inmates.

Fuad Rashid, editor-in-chief of the news Web site Mukalla Press was beaten by four prisoners in the Central Prison of San’aa on Thursday, according to local news reports and the Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate. The prison director’s office ignored a complaint filed by Rashid, and instead put him in solitary confinement, Samia al-Aghraby, chairwoman of the Freedoms Committee of the Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate, told CPJ.

Al-Aghraby said inmates later forced their way into Rashid’s cell, assaulted him, and threatened to kill him if he did not withdraw his complaint. Rashid suffered a sprained wrist and extensive bruises in the two assaults.

CPJ contacted Mothir Ali Naji, the prison’s director, who declined to comment on the case.

President Ali Abdallah Saleh had issued an executive order on April 6 to release all individuals detained in connection with antigovernment protests in Hadramout province, including Rashid, but the order has not yet been carried out, according to the Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate. Rashid was covering the unrest.

“We are dismayed to hear that our colleague was beaten in prison, but we are doubly outraged that prison authorities have failed to investigate the incident or to protect him from further violence from inmates,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator, Mohamed Abdel Dayem. “This assault is all the more alarming given that Rashid should not be in prison in the first place. He has never been charged with a crime during his 11 months in custody, and he should have been released last week in accordance with President Saleh’s directive.”

The Yemeni government’s latest crackdown on the media began in May 2009. CPJ has documented numerous attacks on the press, including the banning of newspapers, and two previous armed attacks on the offices of independent daily Al-Ayyam. CPJ research also shows that at least two other journalists continue to be held without charge.