Al-Moayyad begins hunger strike [Archives:2008/1129/Local News]

February 14 2008

SANA'A, Feb. 13 ) Sheikh Mohammed Al-Moayyad, a Yemeni philanthropist detained in a U.S. jail along with his companion Mohammed Zayed, has begun a hunger strike and stopped taking medicine for his chronic disease on Wednesday, protesting against a U.S. government decision transferring him to a jail cell reserved for mentally ill prisoners.

“My father told me by phone Monday that he would begin the hunger strike on Wednesday after the U.S. authorities transferred him,” said Ibrahim, the eldest son of the aged sheikh, detained in a U.S. jail since January 2003.

The 80-year-old man was transferred to the new cell one and a half months after he sent a congratulation letter to the new U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Stephen Seche. “In his letter, my father reminded the U.S. envoy of his and his companion Mohammed Zayed's miserable conditions in the U.S. jail,” Ibrahim added. “My father's condition is bad and his health worsens over time. We urged him not to go on hunger strike and to continue taking medicine in fear that his health may deteriorate, but he declined our request and insisted not to back out on his decision.”

The aged man suffers from hepatitis C and cirrhosis, in addition to diabetes, asthma and rheumatism. “My father receives only pain relievers from the jail administration. He is not given any prescribed medicines for his health problems,” the aged detainee's son complained in a telephone conversation with the Yemen Times. “I fear that my father's condition may deteriorate further after he stopped eating and taking medicine.”

Sheikh Al-Moayyad is allowed to call his family members, living in Sana'a, once a month for a duration of no longer than 15 minutes.

Last month, as many as 18 local human rights organizations and groups staged a huge sit-in on the five-year anniversary of the pair's arrest in Germany and subsequent extradition to the U.S. They expressed their solidarity with the two Yemeni victims, who suffer from inhumane torture at the hands of U.S. prison authorities. The event was organized in Al-Tahrir Square, Sana'a downtown and attended by hundreds of tribesmen from Khawlan tribe, 50 km east of Sana'a, and other nearby areas.

The protestors released a statement saying that continued detention of the pair may force Yemeni, Arab and Muslim citizens to form a bad image about the U.S. administration and increase Muslims' hatred and animosity toward Americans.

Many NGO representatives and Parliament members gave speeches at the event, stressing that Al-Moayyad is innocent and demanding that he and his companion be repatriated and compensated for the injustice and oppression they suffered in the U.S. jail over the past five years.

Sheikh Al-Moayyad was arrested in the German city of Frankfurt in January 2003 and then handed over to U.S. authorities, who accused him of funneling money to terrorism and supporting the Palestinian movement Hamas. In the U.S, he was sentenced by a Brooklyn court to 75 years in prison.