Al-Qarni remains in jail after refusing to apologize to the president [Archives:2008/1150/Local News]

April 28 2008

Hamed Thabet
SANA'A, April 27 ) “I will not kneel and beg for forgiveness,” said 34-year-old Fahad Al-Qarni in his first hearing session at court in Taiz on Wednesday, April 26, responding to a request that he give a written apology to the General People's Congress in order to be released. Al-Qarni, who is a singer and member of the media department in the Islamic opposition party Islah, was arrested on the first week of April by members of Taiz political security as he was heading to a festival in Aden. He is facing many charges, including motivating people to carry out armed revolt, resisting the government system and calling for revolution and secession. He also insulted in performances the ruling party as well as President Ali Abdullah Saleh publicly by referring to him as “not trustworthy” and that “he and his officials are corrupt, betrayers, thieves, and that they are a gang together.”

Al-Qarni refused to apologize, saying that he did not do anything that deserved an apology. The Attorney General's Office ordered that he be detained in the Central Security Jail for seven days. “These charges are not right, because I have never asked the people to rise up against the Yemeni government, and I do respect the unity between the south and the north,” He stated.

“All my plays call for struggle against corruption and corrupt people in Yemen, but they never talk about secession,” he added.

Ali Al-Mansob, Al-Qarni's defense lawyer, also stated that his client is innocent. “Al-Qarni did not walk in the streets armed, but he just sang some songs, and it is against the law to charge him,” he said.

Al-Qarni's lawyer claimed that his client was arrested illegally and exposed to mistreatment by the security members. “We are going to file suit against the political security for its action and illegal behavior against Al-Qarni in the coming days.”

If the court approves the charges, Al-Qarni may be jailed for one to six years, said the lawyer.

Judge Foad Al-Hamadai noted that all the charges are evident on a CD recording of Al-Qarni's songs, including both sound and image, so the final decision rests on this evidence. Many people are visiting Al-Qarni's jail in order to help, like his family, friends and some organizations like HOOD, said Al-Mansob.

Al-Qarni had previously been jailed in July 2006, when some soldiers affiliated to the Criminal Investigations Bureau jail arrested a group of individuals, accusing them of selling a popular cassette entitled Shabaeen (Fed Up), which was made by Al-Qarni. Making use of folk compositions in a humorous and sarcastic manner, the cassette bitterly criticizes the government's policies.

Al-Shoaibi said that Al-Qarni's case is not the first time that the Yemeni political security has charged Yemeni pop singers for instigation and provocation, noting that their lives are endangered because of their songs or plays, as there is no law which can protect them.

In January 2006, the political security arrested popular artist Mohammed Al-Adhrou'ai under the pretext that he mocked the president following his participation in a festival set up by the Joint Meeting Parties in constituency no.8 of the capital. He was set free after numerous protests were made by non-governmental organizations in solidarity with him.