Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Yemeni Journalist kept in Prison after intervention from Obama

The Yemeni journalist, Abdul Elah Shaye has been kept in prison after a phone call from the American president to President Saleh of Yemen.

Abdul Elah Shaye had been sentenced to five years in prison in Januray 2011 after being accused of acting as media advisor for extremist cleric Anwar al Awlaki. Shaye and his co-defendant, his friend and colleague Sharif Kamal were arrested in the 16th and 17th of August in Sana'a. Shaye was held for 34 deays without access to either a lawyer or his family.

Shaye had aroused the ire of the Yemeni authorties when he reported that the bombing of Abayan, which killed 55 people, including a supposed 14 Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular members had been carried out by the American military and not the Yemeni government, as was claimed in Yemen. Shaye was subsequently proved correct in December 2010 when a leaked diplomatic cable revealed that the bombing had in fact been carried out by the United States.

Shaye and Kamal's arrest drew the attention of reporters without borders who expressed concern fror the manner in which the two men were arrested.

Shaye, who works for the Sabah news agency in Yemen was granted a pardon by Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh on the 1st of February 2011, one of a number of concessions President Saleh granted to assuage political unrest in Yemen following recent turbulent events in the country.

Shaye however, has not been released from prison. The journalist was mentioned personally by President Obama in a phone call between the presidents of Yemen and the USA, in which President Obama expressed concern over the potential release of the journalist. This is due to the charges of which Shaye is accused.

Shaye had managed to interview Anwar al Awlaki in early 2009, in an interview that was subsequently picked up by Al Jazeera and NBC news in the United States. It is likely that the Yemeni authoities used this association to convict Shaye as he had repeatedly criticised Yemeni security policy. Shaye's sentence has caused an outcry among local journalists and the human rigthts group HOOD (The National Organisation for Defending Rights and Freedoms).

Yemen based journalist Iona Craig, wrote an informative piece on the inicident here.

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