Abdulelah Hider Shaea smiles after being released from jail. (Reuters/Farouq al-Sharani)
Abdulelah Hider Shaea smiles after being released from jail. (Reuters/Farouq al-Sharani)

Abdulelah Shaea freed after three years in Yemeni jail

New York, July 24, 2013–The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the release on Tuesday of Yemeni freelance journalist Abdulelah Hider Shaea, who had been imprisoned for almost three years on anti-state charges.

Shaea was released yesterday after President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi issued a pardon, which also stipulated that the journalist could not leave Sana’a, the capital, for two years, state news agency Saba and other news sources reported.

Shaea, who was arrested in August 2010, was sentenced in January 2011 to five years in prison for “belonging to an illegal armed organization” and “recruiting young people, including foreigners, to the organization by communicating with them via the Internet,” according to news reports. CPJ and others said the charges appeared to have been lodged in retaliation for his coverage of extremist groups and the Yemeni government’s security practices.

Shaea had been critical of Yemen’s counterterrorism policies, according to CPJ research. Using his tribal affiliation to gain access, he conducted several interviews with senior members of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. In December 2009, Shaea interviewed the U.S.-born militant Anwar Awlaki for ABC News, according to news reports. Awlaki was killed in a September 2011 U.S. drone attack.

“We are relieved that Abdulelah Hider Shaea has been released, but it comes after three years of imprisonment,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “His reporting on Al-Qaeda was unjustly conflated with working for Al-Qaeda. Shaea should be allowed to continue working as a journalist without fear of harassment or imprisonment.”

Hadi told U.N. officials in May that he planned to release Shaea, but it was unclear until Tuesday whether he would uphold that promise. In February 2011, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh pardoned Shaea, but withdrew the pardon after U.S. President Barack Obama expressed concern over his release, news reports said. The United States, through the National Security Council spokesman, expressed disappointment about Shaea’s release on Tuesday.

CPJ had repeatedly called for the immediate release of Shaea, the only Yemeni journalist included in CPJ’s annual prison census last year.

  • For more data and analysis, visit CPJ’s Yemen page here.