CPJ Writes to the President Condemning Al-Ayyam Editor’s Prosecution [Archives:2000/20/Front Page]

May 15 2000

In a memorandum to President Saleh, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) protested the prosecution of Hisham Basharaheel, the editor-in-chief and publisher of the independent tri-weekly Yemeni newspaper Al-Ayyam.
In their memorandum, they said that “In a hearing this morning (May 10) at the Seera Court of First Instance, Basharaheel was charged with a multitude of offenses including publishing “false information,” “instigating the use of force and terrorism,” and “insulting public institutions.” The accusations are based on an interview with the London-based Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri which was published in Al-Ayyam on August 11, 1999. In the interview, al-Masri criticized the trial of his son Muhammad who had recently been convicted of terrorism by a Yemeni court. Al-Masri also criticized the trial of alleged members of the Aden-Abyan Islamic Army, a shadowy Islamist group accused of kidnapping and murdering foreign tourists in Yemen.
If convicted, Basharaheel faces up to three years imprisonment and fines reaching 4,000 rials ($26). The state prosecutor has also requested the indefinite closure of the Al-Ayyam Printing House which prints Al-Ayyam, a move that would effectively shut down the newspaper.
Moreover, a conviction against the journalist could potentially invite the enforcement of a separate six-month suspended prison sentence previously handed down against Basharaheel on August 4, 1999. In that case, Basharaheel would be convicted of “instigating national feuds”, “instigating the spirit of separatism”, and “harming national unity”, among other charges, in connection with an article written by Ali Haitham Ghareeb and published in the February 27, 1999 edition of Al-Ayyam. The article, titled “Let’s Talk about Unity from the Social Perspective,” criticized the fact that southern provinces are governed mainly by politicians from the north of the country.”
The letter was also forwarded to the Prime Minister, Minister of Information, and international press and freedom of press promoting organizations.