Special court abandons cases against 33 journalists

Reporters Without Borders welcomes a decision by Yemeni court specialising in press cases on 8 June to abandon eight prosecutions against 33 journalists in line with a previously announced amnesty by President Abdullah Saleh to mark the 20th anniversary of the unification of north and South Yemen.

“We hail President Saleh’s decision to drop charges against 33 journalists but we condemn the arbitrary nature of the arrests and detention to which they have been exposed and the fact that they have the victims of mistreatment and even torture,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We call on the authorities to investigate this and to punish those responsible.”

The press freedom organisation added: “We also call on the authorities to suppress the special court for press offences and we point out that Yemeni journalists are still being attacked physically by the security forces.”

In his 8 June announcement, justice minister Ghazi Chaif Al-Agbari said the decision to suspend legal proceedings concerned journalists prosecuted on charges of “undermining national unity,” “inciting regionalism” and “spreading false news with the aim of weakening the armed forces."

The president’s amnesty was announced on 22 May (http://en.rsf.org/yemen-presidential-pardon-on-20th-25-05-2010,37555.html).

The eight cases that have been abandoned concerned these eight newspapers and 33 journalists:

The weekly Al-Share’ and the following members of its staff: Naef Hassan, Mohamed Ali Mouhsin Al-Barti, Adib Al-Sayed, Abdel Wahed Ali Ahmed, Moustafa Ali Issa, Abdel Rab Darwish, Mohamed Mohamed Al-Habashi and Wadad Ayyash.

The daily Al-Ayyam, its founder and owner Hisham Bashraheel and the following members of its staff: Mohamed Mershed Aqabi, Kaed Zeid Thabet, Ghazi Mehsen Al-Alawi, Salah Al-Qashmi and Hisham Etayri.

The weekly Al-Diyar and these four journalists: Abed Al-Mahzari, Majed Al-Dai’ri, Shafi’ Al-Abed and Ali Salem Saleh Ben Yehia.

The newspaper Hadith Al-Madena and its editor Fakri Qassem. (http://en.rsf.org/yemen-two-journalists-released-but-11-05-2010,37433.html)

The newspaper Al-Watani and the following members of its staff: Abdel Raqib Al-Hadyani, Seif Awad Al-Mashali, Fathi Ben Al-Azrak, Yaser Hasan Mohamed, Saleh Moubarak, Al-Ghrabi and Abdel Rahman Ahmed Haza’ Al-Mouhamadi.

The daily Al-Thawry and these two members of its staff: Khaled Salman and Mohamed Mohamed Al-Maqalih.(http://en.rsf.org/yemen-yemeni-media-and-journalists-20-04-2010,37080.html)(http://en.rsf.org/yemen-still-no-word-of-opposition-25-09-2009,34593.html)

The weekly Al-Masdar and the following members of its staff: Samir Jubran, Sami Al-Kaf, Abdelrazeq Al-Jamal, Abelmalek Al-Mathil, Mohammed Al-‘Ala’i and Awad Qashmim.

The newspaper Al-Asemah and the journalist Khaled Al-Alawani.

The Al-Masdar Online news website (www.almasdaronline), which had been blocked since February, became accessible yesterday as a result of the presidential amnesty.

Mohamed Al-Mountasir, a correspondent of the daily Al-Yawm, sustained a head injury when he was attacked by members of the security forces in Al-Dali province (south of Sanaa) on 29 May while covering a sit-in by opposition parties. The police confiscated his camera and held him for six hours.

Reporters Without Borders has learned that Wael Al-Kabati, a university student who works as a journalist for the newspaper Akhbar Aden, was forbidden to sit his exams this year and the next two years for criticising the situation in the university in his articles.