Aggressive Blasphemy Campaign Against Al-Thaqafiah and its Chief Editor [Archives:2000/29/Law & Diplomacy]

July 17 2000
Sheikh Abdulmajid Zindani Mohamed Al-Yadomi Sheikh Omar Ahmad Saif Mosques’ preachers and some newspapers affiliated to Islah Congregation for Reform launched an aggressive campaign against Samir Rasahad Al-Yusufi, chief editor of Al-Thakafiah, for publishing some parts from Mohammed Abdulwali’s novel
“Sana’a, an Open City”. It was said that it contained some offensive expressions abusing God.
Mr. Al-Yusufi has been tried for three times in the West Secretariat Court. In the first hearing, a verdict was passed to detain Al-Yusufi. However, he was released on bail. On the third session, a verdict was passed to detain Al-Yusufi for the second time. He was detained for two hours. His lawyer Abdulaziz Al-Baghdadi and Mr. Ibrahim Abdulhabib, general manager of the Press Affairs in the Ministry of Information, supported him.
The court released Mr. Al-Yusufi after the interference of high ranking sources who passed orders to release him.
Al-Yusufi’s detention coincided with a regular meeting of the Cabinet last Tuesday in which Mr. Abdulrahman Al-Akwa’a, Minister of Information, threatened to resign from the government as a sign of protest against the violations of Al-Thakafiah chief editor’s rights, Mr. Samir Rashad Al-Yusufi. The government authorized the Minister of Justice to liaise with the judicial authorities so as to release Mr. Al-Yusufi.
On the other hand, some people including sheikh Omar Ahmad Saif, Mufti of the PGC, filed a case against Al-Yusufi and the author of the novel. Later, the Press and Publication Prosecution filed a case too. Mr. Al-Akwa’a had already tried to settle the dispute as the issue is related to a very critical matter in the Yemeni society. He proposed that Mr. Al-Yusufi be asked to publish an apology in the newspaper for what has been misunderstood as an insulting remark against the Al-Mighty which should mark the conclusion of the case. Mr. Al-Yusufi acceded to that and for two consecutive issues apologies were published in the newspaper. However, the prosecution went on despite the procedures done and subjected him to trial.
Al-Yusufi’s issue has attracted a wide range of internal and external media attention. Yemen Times has received numerous calls from different international media agencies, inquiring about Al-Yusufi’s case due to the serious charges levelled against Al-Yusufi. The first is using offensive language against the al Mighty; the second is to publish some articles criticizing some social dignitaries. The West Secretariat Court passed a decision last Sunday not to publish the procedures of the courts’ sessions in the local newspapers or through the corespondents of foreign news agents as a precautionary measure to decrease the negative responses that may have an impact on the deliberations of the case. Yemeni Journalist Syndicate considered this decision as a violation of the constitution.
The PPP presented in Tuesday’s session the charge report against Al-Nass and Al-Ahya Al-Arabi newspapers as they published opinion articles about the case. This has created a big fuss about the decision of the court. Yemen Times contacted a legal source who stated that the ban was related to the procedures of the trials and not to opinion articles.
On the other hand, YJS organized a strike beginning from last Monday to express solidarity with Al-Yusufi. The strike was attended by a good number of journalists, writers, lawyers, politicians from all parties. In the Solidarity Ceremony, Mr. Al-Yusufi delivered a speech in which he expressed his high appreciation for all those who stood by him. He asserted that the novel should be understood within the context of its publication. He said that Al-Thakafiah published the novel in a way to celebrate the great literary figures that Yemen is famous for, adding that Abdullah Albaradoni was one of those whose works were also published in the newspaper.
Many writers and analysts considered the recent aggressive campaigns as terrorism against thought, aiming at decreasing the scope of freedom of expression. Other writers believe that they are politically motivated.
Noone can say for certain the course the court sessions are going to take. However, it seems that all the mosques’ preachers are insistent on intensifying their campaign against the novel and the chief editor of the newspaper. Some Yemeni scholars including sheikh Omar Ahmad Saif, Abdulmajid Al-Zindani and Abdulwahab Al-Dailami made a report in which they asked for stopping the newspaper and submitting Al-Yusufi to trial. Besides, there are campaigns launched by supporters of Islah to collect the people’s signatures as a sign of protest. They demanded trial of Al-Yusufi.
Disputes over the novel were sparked of after a telephone call made by Al-Yadomi, secretary general of Islah to Al-Yusufi in which he threatened to close the newspaper.
Mohammed Abdulwali is considered to be one of the great Yemeni literary figures of the 1960s. He along with a few politicians was killed in a premeditated plane crash in Aden.