Lawyer Mohammed Al-Sakkaf jailed then released on bail for political affiliations [Archives:2008/1181/Front Page]

August 14 2008

By: Yemen Times Staff
SANA'A, Aug. 13)While boarding a plane, lawyer and activist Dr. Mohammed Al-Sakkaf was arrested by the airport security and prevented from traveling to Dubai where he planed to spend a short vacation with his family, because of his purported association with the southern opposition movement. He was released on Wednesday night on a commercial guarantee.

According to airport security, Al-Sakkaf was arrested since he was on the “wanted” list consisting of 52 activists in the south opposition movement.

According to Al-Ayam, the newspaper that prints Al-Sakkaf's opinion articles, Al-Sakkaf was taken to the public prosecution office though there was no case against him, and officials there claimed that his file was still with the national security.

According to his wife, lawyer Shada Nasser, Al-Sakkaf was later accused of spreading hate, harming Yemen's unity and instigating the succession of the south from the rest of the country.

Al-Sakkaf was scheduled to be released on Wednesday on the guarantee that he would attend all investigation sessions. But his wife, Nasser, said that the terms of his release were changed and that her husband was only allowed to be released from jail by getting a commercial guarantee, which he did on Wednesday evening.

A commercial guarantee is a contract by a company or business person to ensure through a written promise that the accused person will be in court or in investigations and will not try to flee the country. It is considered to be a form of bail in Yemen. “He is not a terrorist or someone who embezzled money from the government in order to pay bail,” said Nasser, who is frustrated by the situation. “Why weren't Al-Banna and Al-Badawi asked to pay bail? They were accused of terrorism and the government returned them only after international condemnation.” According to Khaled Al-Anesi, the Executive Director of the National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms, also known as HOOD, if Al-Sakkaf is found guilty, he be imprisoned for two to three years. Al-Sakkaf who will represent himself in the case the government is making against him, also acts as the attorney for Hassan Ba'aom, one of the main leaders of the southern opposition movement. Al-Sakkaf had previously given speeches in Al-Dhale' governorate as well as written opinion articles supportive of the southern movement published in Al-Ayam newspaper.

Nasser said that her husband's spirits are high and that he stands behind every article he wrote. “I request international organizations and donor countries to reconsider their relationship with Yemen, because what happened with Al-Sakkaf can happen again to any activist.”

The Yemen Times contacted Saeed Al-Aqil, the head of public prosecution, but he declined to comment on Al-Sakkaf's arrest. “I refuse to answer any questions,” said Al-Aqil.