Yemeni editor, long harassed, is charged again

New York, April 15, 2010The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Yemeni authorities to drop new charges brought against Muhammad al-Maqaleh, editor of the opposition Yemeni Socialist Party’s news Web site Aleshteraki, in connection with a 2005 article. 

On Saturday, the Press and Publications Court summoned al-Maqaleh to appear before it on April 18 on charges of “insulting the president,” according to local news reports. Al-Maqaleh had criticized President Ali Abdallah Saleh in 2005 for running in the 2006 election after promising not to seek re-election. If convicted, al-Maqaleh risks up to two years in prison, his lawyer Hael Salam told CPJ.

“Prosecuting my client for an article he wrote over four years ago is simply farcical,” Salam told CPJ. “My client is a journalist and he has done nothing but analyze and report on the country’s political events.”

Al-Maqaleh, a longtime critic of the Yemeni government, has faced severe harassment and detention at the hands of authorities in the past.

He was seized by unidentified assailants in September 2009 only to resurface in official government custody in February 2010. He said he was tortured while in custody, according to news accounts. Al-Maqaleh was finally charged with supporting northern Huthi rebels in connection with an article criticizing military airstrikes that killed 87 people and injured more than 100 in the northwestern Saada region. He was released on March 25 for “health and humanitarian reasons,” at which point the charges were also dropped.

“This charge is the latest in a series of accusations against Muhammad al-Maqaleh, which together constitute a pattern of judicial harassment,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Coordinator, Mohamed Abdel Dayem. “We call on the authorities to drop this indictment and end its campaign to silence this critical journalist.”