Ahmed Bin Mu’aili: The case of a supposed Yemeni [Archives:2008/1167/Local News]

June 26 2008

By: Kawkab Al-Thaibani
For The Yemen Times

Public prosecutors in the Appeals Court said this week that Ahmed bin Hassan Bin Mu'aili, a controversial figure detained since 1998 for counterfeiting passports, is not actually Yemeni and is putting the country's safety is at risk. He is known as the first person to file a civil lawsuit against President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Bin Mu'aili, who was held in prison without trial for nine years, was tried in 2007 in Special Penal Court, which deals with political and security cases, and was found guilty of counterfeiting passports. He is currently appealing the verdict.

Public prosecution said that as long as his family denies that he is their relative and his nationality is unconfirmed, he is a danger to the country and should be deported. Bin Mu'aili claims that the Political Security Organization, Yemen's intelligence agency, is behind his arrest and detention. He said that public prosecution wants to deport him because he used to work for the organization and knows its political secrets. His case will appear in Appeals Court again this coming Monday, June 30th.

Case background

When he was arrested on Sept. 19, 1998 by the Political Security Organization, known as the PSO, Bin Mu'aili was found with 11 passports on his person.

Charged with counterfeiting passports and identification, he was jailed that same year though his case never went to trial.

The Yemeni Penalty Code, which states that if a minor crime was committed and no trial has occurred within three years since the time of committing the crime, the charges must be dropped. Though the Passport Prosecution Office, the agency that handles investigation of passports and travel documents, dropped the charges against him in 2003, Bin Mu'aili remained in prison without trial.

When the National Organization for Defending Human Rights and Freedoms, known as HOOD, learned of Bin Mu'aili's plight in 2005, the organization filed a compensatory civil case against President Saleh in 2006. The president Saleh also heads the PSO, the agency for which Bin Mu'aili said he worked.

This was the first known civil case filed against President Saleh, according to the U.S. State Department's 2006 country report on Yemen's human rights practices.

In 2006, the South Western Sana'a Court ended up rejecting HOOD and Bin Mu'aili's civil suit against President Saleh. The court determined that the president wasn't directly accountable for Bin Mu'aili's unexplained prison time. At this point, Bin Mu'aili still hadn't been put on trial yet.

In August 2006, Bin Mu'aili appealed this ruling before the Civilian Branch of the Capital Secretariat of Sana'a's Court of Appeals, which reversed the ruling and summoned the president to attend the next court session in order to respond to the lawsuit. Shortly thereafter, government authorities submitted the judge who reversed the decision for judicial inspection.

In 2007, the government's criminal case against Bin Mu'aili's finally went to trial in the Special Penal Court, where he was found guilty and sentenced to seven years in prison.

Bin Mu'aili appealed the verdict and its seven year prison sentence and is currently being re-tried in Appeals Court.

Special Penal Court appeal happening now

At a June 16 court hearing, Bin Mu'aili pleaded with the judge, “I am in your thima [responsibility before Allah]! I've been at the Central Prison for nine years and I've been abandoned. Even if I'm not a Yemeni, treat me as a human being!”

On Monday, Judge Mohammed Al-Hakimi, head of the Special Penal Court, adjourned Bin Mu'aili's case for a week. In this new trial, the judge will allow Bin Mu'aili's defense team to call witnesses, in addition to permitting Bin Mu'aili's lawyers and relatives to visit him in prison to help him round up these witnesses.

The prosecution claims that the affects of Bin Mu'aili's crimes – forging passports and identification cards – are ongoing matters of national security, citing this as the reason he has remained imprisoned since 1998 and went without trial until last year.

Is he Yemeni?

Prosecutor Sa'eed Al-Aqel said in court this month that Bin Mu'aili's brother, Sheikh Mohsin Bin Mu'aili, denies their familial ties.

Al-Aqel further noted that Bin Mu'aili spent his early childhood in Saudi Arabia, where he obtained the 11 different passports that were found on his person in 1998. According to prosecutors, the passports all had photos of Bin Mu'aili with different names, including “Ahmed Aisa Bin Mu'aili”” and “”Ahmed Bin Aisa Khader Al-Rashid.””

Bin Mu'aili previously told judge Al-Hakimi that he'd cut ties with many of his family members for shunning him since before his birth when his father married his mother