Rajeh Bears the Brunt of Repression [Archives:2001/05/Reportage]

January 29 2001

Rajeh Yahya al-Romaim, 35, is from Mathbah, Bani al-Hareth. Eight years ago he used to work for the Ministry of Agriculture. Rajeh has been exposed to a great series of misery and repression. Since 1993, he was shut in prison without any legal warrant. Some persons backed up by strong connections plotted a well-calculated plan to throw him in prison, exercised pressure on judges to convict him of a charge he knew nothing about and fabricated a verdict sentencing him to death. Rajeh’s only mistake is that he is a citizen with no strong “back-up”- meaning connections. His strategically located land was the very reason behind all this. However, he has never given up. He went through a long ordeal asserting his innocence, applying all means to prove it. He wrote letters to many human rights organizations, many newspapers, many top officials, the Justice Minister, the President, drew pictures, and finally he made it. The appeal court passed two verdicts that acquitted him of the fabricated charge and ordered his release.
Eight years after he was arrested and sent to prison, he came to face the full weight of reality awaiting him and it was a harsh and daunting reality; his family, consisting of four children and his wife, had been destroyed, his children expelled from school due to financial problems, his land confiscated and now, all he had earned in his life was gone.
In May 15, 2000 issue 20, YT wrote about his case and appealed for an investigation into it. He was finally released on 20.11.2000, although this was after losing everything.
Yemen Times in this report attempts to shed light on this flagrant violation of human rights and is pinning high hopes on the humanitarian organizations and those of human rights to extend a helping hand to Mr. Rajeh. Yemen Times also calls upon the authorities concerned to give Mr. Rajeh his land back so as to prove we are living in a democratic and transparent state where all the people are equal before the law.
Rajeh talked about how the tragedy started and said “I had a plot of land, 30 “Lebnah” in the street of Mathbah-Dhola’a, above the roundabout of the university and I sold it to a brigadier in Khawlan called S. A. S. A. I received YR 200,000 although at the time its value would have reached YR5 million. The brigadier assured me that I would receive the rest of the money after he built a wall around the land. However, brigadier H. F. Sh. came to say that he had an order from the President granting him my land. Later it was discovered that the land granted was in Jabal Mathbah and was not my land. However, this claimant found my land to be in such a good location that he made up his mind to take it. He came along with his son to fight with the S. A. S. A. However, his son T. H. F. was killed in an exchange of fire.”Mr. Rajeh talks about the calamities he underwent and said “On 28.9.1993 and while I was with my family at home, a group of soldiers from the Pending Investigation Office broke into my house in Mathbah. They were not wearing uniforms. They told me that I had to go with them for questioning. On reaching there H. F. , the father of the murdered, charged S. A. S. A. of killing his son. However, after some time things started to have a new complexion and they began to accuse me of killing him.
For a month and a half I was kept in detention in the Pending Investigations Office. I appealed and asked for reasons, but to no avail . After this period the office made a report acquitting me and confirming that I was not at the crime scene.
After the issuing of this report, the strong connections of the accuser made the officer of the Pending Investigations Office, at the time A. W. al. change the report. Consequently, I was transferred to the prosecution on 14.11.1993. Some of my relatives were also imprisoned with me. On 2.1.1994 the prosecution acquitted me of the charge, ordering my immediate release. The prosecution also convicted S. A. S. A. who was out of the reach of the law and M. S. A. who was arrested and tried with me. However, again the accuser’s connections interfered, and stopped this order. In an attempt at suppression, the prosecution director at the time, A. M. H. along with M. B, fabricated a report against me with the other two convicted persons.
After that I was presented to court in 1994. Judge H. al-R. was at the time the head of the Preliminary Court of Bani al-Hareth. After holding some sessions the judge found that there was no evidence for convicting me. Therefore, he issued a verdict to release me on bail. However, at the very next session I found that the judge had canceled his verdict. When I pleaded with the judge for his sense of justice and mercy, he told me “I swear son, the court has no hand and no power in this.” I shouted and they arrested my old father and my uncle, put them in custody and didn’t release them until they paid YR 20,000. Since then they have been trying me in absence.
Sessions went on and the case was adjourned for the passing of the verdict at the end of 1994. However, the case was shelved until the middle of 1995. Later I found that the accuser supported by his strong connections was trying to force the judge to sentence me to death. Because he refused to comply to their pressure, he was sacked. Another judge called A. N. al-H. was appointed despite the fact that this was against the judicial laws. I protested but again no-one heeded me. Soon the verdict was passed, sentencing me to death on 19.11.1995.
When my children heard the death sentence, they were dazed and fainted. They were expecting me to go home with them. However, I was sent back to the Central Prison. Out of despair, I began writing on the walls of the Prison a sentence “A nation where right is lost, justice devastated, law broken down, turns into a haven for monsters, a shelter for the corrupt and thieves.”After that, I appealed against the verdict in the appeal court until 27.7.1997 when the appeal court judge Hussain al-Mahdi in the capital secretariat passed a verdict acquitting me of the charge. The case was then transferred to the Supreme Court and it was pending there from 27.7.1997 to 6.6.1999. For two years I was again in prison with no one to set me free after my innocence had been proved and the verdict passed. The conspiracy was carried out on the telephone, a plot of which I was unaware. However, I was amazed again to hear that the case was to be transferred again to the appeal court under the pretext that one of the judges did not attend one of the sessions during the trial. By what laws and by what ethical and moral principles was all this going on!
Then sessions were again held in the appeal court whose chief judge at the time was Saeed al-Qata’a. He on 20.2.2000 passed the verdict acquitting me and ordering my immediate release. However, I was not set free until 1.10.2000. So even when the courts asserted that I was innocent and verdicts were passed in the appeal court acquitting me of the charges, the laws of the country were too weak to be implemented. After eight years of imprisonment, they came to tell me it was over. You go!
So as to go on with their attacks against me, they referred my case to the Military Unit in the Supreme Court which in a face saving action noted that I had been convicted and that 8 years imprisonment was enough and that I was to be released. When I tried to appeal against this, they turned down my petition of appeal.
Now my odyssey has not ended. I realized that my incarceration was a well-calculated plan to take away my land and to show that an ordinary citizen like me has no rights but has to bear and accept every thing high people do to me. Recently, I was told that high ranking mediation is going on to divide my land between the other two parties who were the reason behind my suppression for the simple reason that I am a citizen with no strong people to back me up. The only virtue of the long term imprisonment is that I memorized the Holy Qura’an.”
Of the situation of prisoners in the prison, he said “The word “violations” is not the proper word to use. Rather, human rights are trampled inside the prison. Prisoners suffer miserable conditions, are humiliated, and sometimes barbarous acts are committed by the prison officials. This is the ever occurring story in the prison. There is a flagrant disregard and contempt of human dignity and rights. All this is not only a violation of the universal standards of human rights and human dignity but also makes a mockery of all efforts to struggle for a free and democratic Yemen.
To see your child and touch him and kiss your kid, you have to pay. To see your wife you have to pay around (YR2000-YR3000) and they will provide you a filthy room not at all suitable for human beings.
Food is very bad and is not at all fit for humans. If rich prisoners do not come to help those who are poor, there would be a famine in the prison. Water is polluted. Many times we have found dead cats in water basins. When some committees come to the prison to check things, the administration conduct cleaning campaigns, provide us with good food. Many a prisoner is sent to prison and is kept there for years during the investigation phase and no one dares to raise his voice. Some others have ended their terms, yet they are still in prison.”
At the end of his account Mr. Rajeh said “I appeal to you, the Yemen Times, to convey my message to President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the only person who could do something to liberate me from the disasters that have befallen me and give me my land back. I have knocked on all doors and sought justice but could not find it. I also appeal to all human rights organizations to interfere, protect me and extend to me a helping hand.”