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Activists to put pressure on Hadi to release journalist

Published on 23 February 2012 in News
Sadeq Al-Wesabi (author)

Sadeq Al-Wesabi


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SANA'A, Feb. 22 — Journalists and human rights activists have started planning to escalate efforts to free the imprisoned journalist Abdul-Elah Haidar Shayi', who has now been in jail for 18 months.

Shaya’ was sentenced to five years in prison in January 2011, charged with “participating in an armed group and being a media man for Al-Qaeda.”

Last week, Shayi' went on a hunger strike to protest his continued incarceration without receiving a fair trial. He was, however, compelled by relatives and activists to break the strike earlier this week.

Abdul-Rahman Barman, a lawyer and human rights activist, told the Yemen Times that “Shayi's health is really deteriorating.”

"He responded to our request to break his hunger strike after hearing our promise to escalate his issue starting next week," he said, indicating that Shayi' can't even stand well due to his ill health.

Barman said that journalists and human rights activists will put pressure on new president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to release Shayi'.

"We're also going to hold protests in front of the American embassy because President Obama's phone call put a stop to the decision for his release," he said.

Barman and other human rights activists have repeatedly tried to visit Shayi' in Sana'a's political security prison, but have been unable to, faced with refusals by the Political Security Administration.

Ghamdan Al-Yosefi, a prominent journalist and member of Yemen's Journalists Syndicate, told the Yemen Times that Hadi and the unity government should intervene on Shayi's behalf.

"They should convey the idea to America that Shayi' is only a journalist and that he was carrying out his journalistic duties. They should tell America that he didn't incite people to violence or plan for terrorist attacks," he said.

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Al-Yosefi said that Yemen's Journalists Syndicate and international and national human rights organizations have exerted considerable pressure to release Shayi'. He added, though, that American pressure to keep Shayi' in prison had proven to be a stronger force.

"Unfortunately, Shayi' is a victim of a counter-terrorism policy that failed to differentiate between himself and Al-Qaeda members," he said.

Yemeni journalist Jamal Jubran said in a recent article that Shayi's guilt amounted to his exercising journalistic objectivity.

"He refused his part in a game held by a regime that doesn't respect its people," he said.

Jubran said that Shayi' is the only journalist who conducted interviews with Al-Qaeda leaders.

"When the regime asked him to spy on Al-Qaeda, he refused. This refusal cost him a lot," he added.

On August 2010, government forces stormed Shayi's home and arrested him under the pretext of involvement with Al-Qaeda. His arrest provoked the anger of journalists and human rights organizations.

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