Khaiwani to apologize, or else [Archives:2004/779/Front Page]

October 7 2004
Khaiwani smiles as he hears the accusations against him. 	Photos by S. Dabiah
Khaiwani smiles as he hears the accusations against him. Photos by S. Dabiah
Judge reads out the verdict.  	Photos by S. Dabiah
Judge reads out the verdict. Photos by S. Dabiah
Mohammed bin Sallam
Local, Arab, and international pressure is being exerted on the government to persuade it to release the prisoner of opinion, Abdulkarim Al-Khaiwani, editor-in-chief of Al-Shura Weekly, mouthpiece of the Public Forces Union Party.
Al-Khaiwani has been detained in the Sana'a Central Prison since September 5th. Many local, Arab and international organizations have urged the government to release him.
According to newspapers, negotiations are being held to release Al-Khaiwani but under the condition that he resigns his post at Al-Shura, agrees to no longer be an editor-in-chief of any other newspaper, and submits a letter of apology.
It is reported that Al-Khaiwani has refused to write the letter.
Continued detention of Al-Khaiwani, without allowing him to defend himself at the Court of Appeal, is a flagrant breach of the law and reflects the influence of state figures, politicians and media people over judicial procedures.
Critics have slashed at the passive approach of the judiciary and the judge chairing Al-Khaiwani's case, who has used unconvincing excuses to adjourn proceedings.
With the case expected to be reviewed this week, very close to the judges' holiday of Ramadhan, the press community is apprehensive of delaying the case, and further depriving Al-Khaiwani of his rights.
They express their fear that the appeal will keep him in prison during the trial proceedings.
The Judicial authorities continue to procrastinate looking into the appeal forwarded by Al-Khaiwani's lawyer. They claim the judge is ill, while he actually looks into other cases, a fact which underlines the political influence over the judiciary, which aims at keeping Al-Khaiwani imprisoned for as long as possible.
The US government has advised Yemen to settle Al-Khaiwani's case quickly because he is a prisoner of opinion, well-informed sources said.
According to, the sources reported that America has made it clear that continued detention of Al-Khaiwani, because of his opinions, would hinder the efforts of friendly countries that try to strengthen international partnerships for Yemen's development.
“Yemen's violations of the plurality of opinion by shutting down newspapers, attacking parties, kidnapping and detaining journalists would form a chief topic in human rights watchdogs' reports,” the US advice read.
It went on saying, “These organizations represent an international advisor to donors, such as the Congress which directs US aids.”
New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said in a letter sent to President Saleh through the Yemeni ambassador to America that it considered the detention of Abdulkarim Al-Khaiwani for writing articles, a gross violation of the freedom of expression principle which is recognized worldwide.
Ann Cooper, executive director of the CPJ, called upon the President to fulfill his promise to abolish the imprisonment of journalists. She appealed to him to do whatever he can to “set Al-Khaiwani free and cancel charges against him.' The Yemeni government also received a protest letter from the International Federation for Human Rights, one of the UN's agencies. It condemned barring Al-Khaiwani and Al-Shura.
The IFHR confirmed to the Yemeni government that detaining a citizen for his expressed opinion is an infringement of the democratic system to which Yemen more than once avowed to adhere, a source in the IFHR said.
The source added: “the imprisonment sentence has shown that Yemen's democracy needs the reformation of laws and legislation regulating political affairs.”
The US advice and the IFHR's letter came at a time when protests against Al-Khiwani's detention are increasing.
Moreover, the Arab Organization for Human Rights has expressed its resentment. “We have received with concern the news of shutting down the Yemeni newspaper of Al-Shura for six months, and imprisonment of its editor-in-chief, Abdulkarim Al-Khaiwani, for one year,” the AOHR's statement read.
The organization particularly felt concern over the closing down of Al-Shoura, and driving out its staff out after detaining them for hours.”As AOHR denounces these violations of freedom of expression, it requests the Yemeni government to abide by the initiative previously issued by the President- canceling journalists imprisonment. It requests the Yemeni authorities to quickly release the editor-in-chief of Al-Shura Weekly, and take legal measurements to stop punishments that shackle press freedom,” the statement added.
On the other hand, the Arab Program for Human Rights Activists called on the Yemeni government to release Abdulkarim Al-Khaiwani, lift the bar on Al-Shura, and conduct an independent investigation into corruption issues stirred by the newspaper. The program announced the commencement of a campaign to collect signatures in solidarity with Al-Khaiwani who is still in the Central Prison, Sana'a. The signature list is then to be delivered to the Yemeni authorities.
The program considered the procedures against Al-Shura and its editor-in-chief as continuation of the press freedom siege. “Gagging the press will not allow the public to know information, which will consequently draw them away from political participation, causing them to pale into insignificance,” the urgent statement added.
The program called the sentence against Al-Shura and Al-Khaiwani a non-application of the head of state's directives that cancelled the imprisonment of journalists.
“This may expose these directives as being a sheer means to win the support of the international community, and not to safeguard a principle stated by the Yemeni constitution,” the statement elaborated.
On the other hand, the Parliament's Culture and the Information Committee has received the replies of some of the concerned authorities it visited to probe into the case of Al-Khaiwani, and the ban of Al-Shura. After the sit-in staged by journalists before the Parliament Hall, the Committee visited the ministries of justice, information, interior, and human rights. It asked them to answer the journalists' letter. Only two ministries had replied by October 2nd.
The Center for Training and Press Protection is still collecting signatures for freeing Abdulkarim Al-Khaiwani and Al-Shura.
A statement released by the Center condemned the acts against Al-Khaiwani including the kidnapping, and the moral and physical maltreatment after storming the headquarters of Al-Shura, shutting it down, and putting guards around it.
The Center launched a campaign last week targeting one hundred thousand signatures to support a solidarity and condemnatory statement as a first stage, which is to be ensued by one-million signatures from all over the country.
The statement showed concern over the health and psychological state of the prisoner. “Al-Khaiwani's state is worsening, and nothing guarantees his safety,” the statement said.
It denounced the policy of subjugation and intimidation, asking that imprisonment of press publication sentences be cancelled, and that Political Security forces be restrained under the authority of the law.
Sit-in holders at the Taiz Yemen Intellectuals and Writers Union expressed their condemnation of kidnapping Al-Khaiwani and the following derogatory and scary proceedings. They also denounced the unfair sentence because it violates sound legal protocol. “The sentence was issued by an unspecialized court. The case was described as urgent while this was not true. Besides, the case was looked into during a judicial holiday,” they explained.
Their statement added: “What has happened can not be understood except as some sort of targeting, the prevalence of an old mindset, and an attempt to harass honest writers. It is a stark violation of freedom of expression, and political revenge of an abusive authority, making use of the carrot and stick approach. It is a very vivid sign of the repulsion of different others.”
In Hadhramout, journalists asked for the release of Al-Khaiwani. The final statement of the Yemen Journalists Syndicate, Hadhramout branch, said: “We call for the immediate release of Abdulkarim Al-Khaiwani, editor-in-chief of Al-Shura, member of the YJS, who is confined in the Central Prison.”
Nowadays, journalists are studying new solidarity-expressing acts including organizing a march to the Presidency House, and the Cabinet Office as well as activating the case and charging the authorities of violating Al-Khaiwani's rights as a citizen, a human being, and a man of opinion.
Harsh restrictions are still imposed upon Al-Khaiwani. He is deprived of contact, reading, and writing since he was kidnapped on September 5th from Al-Shura's office. The Political Security's men snatched him under the pretext of applying the Court of First-Instance's sentence despite his lawyer's rejection of the unfair sentence. On Sunday October 3rd, the Court of Appeal will be looking into the case on the request of the Prosecuting representative of the authorities – and not Al-Khaiwani's lawyer.