General attorney accuses security of violating constitution [Archives:2008/1117/Front Page]

December 3 2008
Pictures of three of the minors who were detained Thursday because of celebrating Al-Ghadeer Eid. From left: Abdullah Almutwakil, Ishaq Al-Kahlani, abd Mohammed Al-Hadi
Pictures of three of the minors who were detained Thursday because of celebrating Al-Ghadeer Eid. From left: Abdullah Almutwakil, Ishaq Al-Kahlani, abd Mohammed Al-Hadi
Female relatives of the detainees traveled from Hajja and Dhamar to join the protest in Sanaa.
Female relatives of the detainees traveled from Hajja and Dhamar to join the protest in Sanaa.
By: Saddam Al-Ashmouri
For The Yemen Times

SANA'A, Jan 2 ) Attorney General Abdullah Al-Olofy expressed his helplessness against what he claims are high level instructions that do not adhere to the legal system in Yemen. He told this to representatives of over 150 protestors who held a two-day sit-in in front of his office, demanding the release of illegally detained relatives and friends.

The sit-in is one of many activities led by human rights organizations and activists promoting freedom of expression and religion in Yemen. In their statement, they demanded the release of over 360 detainees, including more than 10 children below 18 years old, in various governorates around the republic.

Some of the detainees have been in jail for over a year without charges, or given a fair trial.

“This has been an on going policy by the political security under the pretext of terrorism. But the latest arrest of 8 minors on Dec. 27 for lighting fire crackers is too much,” said Ali Al-Dailami, director of the Yemeni Organization for Freedoms and Rights, who participated in the protest.

The children, who are of the Zaidi sect, were celebrating their religious festival of Al-Ghadeer Eid on Thursday when they were thrown into jail. They had been carrying leaflets issued for the occasion explaining the religious celebration and what it means to Zaidis. According to lawyer Abdul-Rab Al-Murtadha, the leaflet is perfectly in line with article 19 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, concerning freedom of expression, which Yemen ratified alongside the Yemeni constitution.

The protestors, including a number of women, demanded the release of the well-known religious Yemeni Zaidi scholar Mohammed Miftah, who was also arrested on Thursday on charges of celebrating Al-Ghadeer Eid.

“A group of anti-terrorism security officers arrested everyone who was celebrating the festival, as if they had been standing around the corner waiting for an excuse to take away our men and children,” said one of the female protestors.

Ahmed Saif Hashed , MP and member of the Human Rights Committee in Parliament, argued in support of the detainees. He sent a letter to Al-Olofi endorsing the case of the detainees in Hajjah who were arrested in early January 2007 on suspicion of having relatives involved with the ongoing war in Sa'ada.

Hashed has also established a human rights organization called Al-Tageer and has taken up the religious detainees file among its priority issues.

Helpless attorney and clueless security

When the protestors discussed their issue with the Attorney General, who had welcomed them in his office, he clearly explained that he had already instructed the release of the 8 children, along with many other men who had been detained on terrorism charges without evidence. The Yemen Times had been closely following multiple cases of detainees in Hajjah and Dhamar prisons. In most of the cases, there were release orders in favor of the detainees, but none of the orders were executed.

Al-Olofi agreed with the protestors that their demands are perfectly legal, and despite the fact that he has already instructed the release of their illegally detained relatives, and in spite of the constitution's clarity on the issue, he claimed he is powerless because of high level orders that insist on keeping the detainees behind bars under the pretext of “war against terrorism.” He also encouraged the protestors to raise their issue in court against the security authority responsible for the arrest and detention.

Hisham Al-Ghazali, head of the anti-terrorism section in Sana'a, where the 8 minor detainees are being held, admitted the existence of the children in prison. However, he dismissed the idea that they were underage, and said that they had been arrested because of resistance. “Had they not resisted the security, they would be sleeping in their beds right now. In any case, we will be releasing them if they bring appropriate assurances,” he stated.

When the children's relatives approached the security with enquiries about what kind of assurances they would need in order for their children to be released, they were told that they had to resist authorities in the future and cease “mischievous activities.” In addition, however, they had to refrain from such celebrations in the future, and quit studying at Al-Nahrain Mosque, a Zaidi religious school in Sana'a. At the time of this article's publication, the children were still imprisoned.

Escalating the case

The protestors stated that they would continue their sit-in until their demands are met and the detainees are released, asserting that they will camp in front of the Cabinet, Sana'a Security Central Office, and international human rights organizations in order to highlight their issue. They added that they will create a website for the detainees, to report their names and statuses and to form a communication link with the rest of the world on this issue.