Court delays Al-Khaiwani’s case, journalists resort to Sheikh Al-Ahmer [Archives:2004/800/Local News]

December 20 2004

Mohammed bin Sallam
The journalists community is impatiently waiting for the Sana'a Court of Appeal to resume hearings on Al-Shura newspaper and Al-Khaiwani's case, especially with the circulated news that judge Mohammed Al-Akwa'a, is no longer head of the court, and that judge Mohammed Amer has been appointed in his head. Observers of poor press freedom in Yemen commented saying that the replacement of the judge shows the huge pressure exerted by the state on the Judicial Authority, and reveals the course of litigation of the case.
“It is an opinion case with a political air. It has vivid parties and is raised because of Al-Shura's role and treatment of corruption and public property embezzlement as well as power inheritance and wasting the wealth of the country,” they added.
Journalists and politicians hold the authority responsible for the continued detention of Al-Khaiwani.
“The authority turned down all local and Arab pleas which asked fro the release of Al-Khaiwani and adherence to international human rights agreements ratified by Yemen.”
On the other hand, the council of the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate (YJS) is still trying to hold an urgent meeting to discuss the issue upon requests from the majority of the General Assembly members at their Tuesday's meeting, two weeks ago.
The council said the meeting could not be held due to lack of quorum. This was resented by journalists who noticed a lack of desire to deal with the issue, which they say is one of the greatest violations against press freedom and restrictions on freedom of expression.
The journalists community are in hope that the YJS's council will sense their main responsibility towards the members regardless of partisan affiliation. They appealed to the council not to surrender to pressures and reject dictations and to face attacks whatever is their source so as to achieve the aspirations of the members.
In its 2004 report, Freedom House criticized the independence of control and accountability bodies from the executive authority and appointing provincial governors despite much talk on local authority and the apparent independence of the judiciary.
The report added that Yemen has not achieved progress in terms of performance of its authorities towards public liberties especially press freedom, political plurality and peaceful transfer of power.
The New York-based international organizations has moved Yemen from the not-free to the partially free category because of its regularity in conducting elections, specifically parliamentary elections, and allowing parties and press. But the report stresses that the Middle East region is the worst in the world in suppressing liberties particularly of the press.
Abdulaziz Mohammed, journalist, circulated a statement on Yemen media last week, which slashed at the authority.
“The Yemen media, partisan and private, is facing an authoritarian wrathful autumn seeming to be intending to blow away the remaining leaves on the tree of press freedom, which has been diminishing since its announcement at the time of the Reunification Agreement in 1990,” the statement said.
“Affairs in Yemen go to an ever clasping grip on the political life and gagging mouths through tens of trials of newspapers and journalists to remove the last accomplishment of the Reunification and suppressing the last means of the other opinion and freedom of expression.”
The statement added: “Colleague Abdulkarim Al-Khaiwani, editor-in-chief of Al-Shura newspaper, who is currently detained at the Sana'a Central Prison since September 5, 2004 is not the last victim of directives and orders. He is surely the most prominent of them. Yet, many others are still waiting for their turn on a long queue going through the same guillotine.”
There are some seven journalists from Al-Shura newspaper, which is suspended for more than three months, are still being interrogated by the Attorney General on charges covered by a quick legally questionable judicial sentence.
“Colleagues Abdulfatah Al-Hakimi, Abdullah Sabri, Abdullah Al-Hakimi, Aidi Al-Munifi, Jamal Amer, Rashidah Al-Qaili, and Jamal Al-Ja'abi have not shed blood nor have they embezzled public money. They are journalists and writers charged by the authority with writing articles considered by the ruler as a public slander of the president and a call for disunity,” the statement elaborated.
In the end of the writer's statement, he mentioned a number of newspapers who paid the price.
“Al-Nida newspaper, published by colleague Sami Ghaleb had just one issue before it was suspended on the basis that it had no value. Al-Wasat newspaper also is being tried because it disseminates legally groundless news about Saudi Arabia. Al-Wohdawi newspaper, published by the Nasserite Unionist Organization, stood two trials to look into charges pertaining to its journalistic activities just in one week, while Al-Huryiah newspaper has been suspended for tow months up until now.
“The condition of Al-Thawri, Al-Tajamo'a, Ra'I, and Annas newspapers is not better. They are facing different charges, reflecting in general the condition of the Yemeni press and the false claim of the authority that there are democracy, plurality, while press freedom is bleeding in prison cells and courtrooms.”

YJS asks Sheikh Al-Ahmer to intervene:
The Yemen Times has been informed that the Minister of Justice has assigned the Judicial Inspection Authority to appoint a new judge to look into Al-Khaiwani's case because of the ailment of judge Mohammed Al-Akwa'a, head of the Penalty Department of the Appeal Court.
With the defense team being not officially informed of these procedures, the YJS board and journalists fear that such measurements are part of the scenario of delay of the court meant to keep Al-Khaiwani imprisoned and Al-Shura suspended.
On the other hand a source in the YJS board said the meeting slated for this week would send a letter to Sheikh Abdullah bin Hussein Al-Ahmer, speaker of the parliament, asking him to intervene in Al-Khaiwani's case. The YJS would reveal the report of its information committee, gleaned after the sit-in of journalists before the Parliament in the wake of arresting Al-Khaiwani and shutting down Al-Shura.