Al-Shura to be banned for six months, editor-in-chief imprisoned one yearPress freedom endangered [Archives:2004/771/Front Page]

September 9 2004

Mohammed bin Sallam
Although President Saleh, chairman of Supreme Judicial Council, gave directives a few months ago to abolish the imprisonment of journalists, the West Sana'a Court has flouted the Presidential decree, and sentenced Abdulkarim Al-Khaiwani, the editor-in-chief of Al-Shura Weekly (the organ of the Public Forces Union), to one-year of imprisonment.
All nongovernmental organizations and opposition parties, as well as social and political figures, have denounced the sentence, seeing it as politicized, unfair, and in contravention of democracy and the constitution.
The Public Forces Union (PFU) was the first to express its condemnation of the sentence, which it described as “oppressive and illegal.”
“This fierce attack on Al-Shura, and its editor-in-chief, represents a gross violation of the constitution and the law, and undoubtedly affirms the disregard of the authorities towards rights and freedom, especially freedom of expression, without which democracy becomes meaningless,” said a statement distributed by the PFU on September 5th.
It added: “It completely violates the President's initiative to abolish the imprisonment of journalists. These arbitrary procedures are a reflection of the bogus democracy which the government declares and tries to promote abroad. It reflects the excessive influence of the executive authority, and its disrespect for the separation of authorities, and its abhorrence of journalistic freedom and democracy.”
The statement continued: “The procedures taken by the authorities against Al-Shura are the result of the newspaper's opening of corruption and malfeasance files, which led to a mock trial of the newspaper, beyond the frame of law, and ended up with an unfair political sentence, the arrest of the editor-in-chief and the shutting down of the newspaper.”
At the end of the statement, the PFU condemned these illegal procedures, requested the authorities quickly release Abdulkarim Al-Khaiwani, (and the guard of the newspaper detained at a police station), and demanded the abolition of all procedures taken against the newspaper so far. It called on all forces in the civil community to support Al-Shura, and its editor-in-chief, for the sake of freedom and democracy, for which the Yemeni people struggled for a long time in hope of a prosperous and stable Yemen.
Similarly, the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) held a meeting at the headquarters of the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP) and released a statement on the sidelines of a sit-in against the imprisonment sentence on Al-Khaiwani. The whole zone was encircled by security personnel who were scattered around the area surrounding the YSP's headquarters. The security measures compelled many people not to participate in the sit-in. The YSP's headquarters was disconnected from power, water, and fixed telephone services, and whoever went inside was searched by security who even forbade the use of mobile phones.
The JMP expressed its surprise at that siege set around a civil organization.
“We remonstrate the oppressive measurements taken by security authorities against Abdulkarim Al-Khaiwani, starting with the false trial, under an incompetent judge, the unlawful proceedings of the trial after the withdrawal of the defense, and ending up with the derogatory arrest at 10 pm on Sunday September 5th. They stormed the headquarters of Al-Shura and plundered its belongings.”
The statement added: “all these violations took place with the knowledge of the Attorney General and with the consent of judges, who have proved to be mere employers of the executive authority, and under the control of chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council. The Chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council has the power to appoint and dismiss judges and is also the head of an opponent party within a political system supposedly based on pluralism. Thus, the result of such a fact is arbitrary oppression of whoever the ruler thinks criticizes or contradicts his policy.”
“On what has been mentioned before, as the JMP condemns this practice, it sees that things will not go well, civil rights will not be equally attained unless the executive authority stops controlling the judicial authority. The JMP also calls for the quick release of Abdulkarim Al-Khaiwani, and holding those responsible for maltreating him to account,” added the statement.
The Yemen Journalist Syndicate (YJS) has announced that its board will continuously hold meetings to follow up developments in the case. It emphasized its absolute support for Al-Shura Weekly and its editor-in-chief, calling for rights and freedoms, and on local and international organizations to denounce the oppressive sentence and attempt to stop its application by all means.
The Journalists Without Borders Organization sent a message to the President of the Republic appealing to him to release Abdulkarim Al-Khaiwani.
“Reporters Without Borders is dismayed at this very harsh sentence against a journalist and intellectual well known for his professionalism and outspokenness,” the organization said.
It added: “We remind the President that he regularly advocates respect for human rights and that this judicial decision is all the more astonishing given that he recently said he opposed Prisons terms for journalists,” added the message.