Runaway soldier’s family arrested, held without charge [Archives:2008/1134/Reportage]

March 3 2008

Nisreen Shadad
For The Yemen Times

Murad Al-Khamisi, a 19-year-old soldier at the Sayoun branch of Central Security, is accused of deserting the military and stealing arms from the branch. To compel his return, the military imprisoned Al-Khamisi's father and two older brothers.

Al-Khamisi disappeared June 20 and no one knows if he's currently alive or dead. After Al-Khamisi's disappearance, the military arrested his father and two older brothers without charge. Neither the military nor prison officials observed the rights of habeus corpus, which dictates that individuals in custody be brought before a court so that those detaining them can justify the detention, so the men languished in jail for a week without knowing what charges they faced.

Ali Al-Dailami, Executive Director of the , pointed out that , under Yemeni law, it's illegal to arrest “family members for more than eight months.

“If they doubt the family assisted their son in stealing the arms, they may imprison them legally, but for no more than 48 hours,” Al-Dailami explained, after which they must be referred to prosecution for investigation and lastly, allowing a judge – the only one able to decide – to mandate whether they should be imprisoned or released.

Al-Khamisi, who joined the military immediately after graduating from high school, worked as a guard for the Sayoun arms warehouse for four years. Al-Khamisi's family likewise are involved in the military, as his two older brothers and father also are servicemen.

Al-Khamisi's father, 56-year-old Ahmed Al-Khamisi, worked as a soldier for 18 years and was one of the 103 Marching Brigade members. Before his arrest, he fought six months in Sa'ada for the Yemeni government.

Military officers summoned him to the Sana'a central security under the auspices of resolving a problem between his son and his army commander. However, upon his arrival June 21, 2007, he was arrested and detained as a criminal.

Likewise, Al-Khamisi's brothers, Walid, 22, and Adel, 23, were arrested the following day. Walid worked as a guard at Al-Rajawi clothing store in Sana'a while Adel was a soldier at Central Security iAl-Mahrah, the governorate. Adel also was a senior studying in the math department at Hadramout University, where he was arrested outside of class on the final day of his exams.

Walid was told to wait for a local official on Al-Uroq Street in front of his house near Sana'a International Airport, but an armored military vehicle came to arrest him instead.

“I doubt that my brother ran away or stole the arms,” the young men's sister Suad observed, “because his superiors are always praising him.”

She further indicated that her brother enjoyed a good reputation within his army camp and that his supervisors praised him for his care of the arms warehouse. When asked for a certificate to prove that her brother indeed was honored at his base, she explained that such praise usually is given to soldiers orally in front of all the battalions.

Ahmed Al-Kamali, former head of the Sayoun Central branch, refused to give any information regarding how many or what type of arms were stolen and further declined to comment on Murad Al-Khamisi's disappearance as well, citing military considerations as the reason he was unable to comment.

Following this incident, Al-Kamali was relieved of his duties for nearly a month but later reappointed as a general staff member of Amran's Central Security team.

Like his older brothers, Al-Khamisi's 16-year-old brother Mohammed was arrested June 22, 2007 while visiting his family members at Sana'a Central Prison to give them food and money.

“I was imprisoned three months,” the youth recalled, “When Yahya Mohammed Saleh, sheikh of Hajjah's Bin Athran tribe, visited the prison and saw me, he asked the head of security to release me because of my age,” and indeed, he was released shortly thereafter.

“The other three are being held instead of Murad,” Mohammed explained, “My father told me he won't be released until Murad turns himself in and returns the stolen arms.”

Although the family also has appealed to various non-governmental organizations, the elder Al-Khamisi penned a letter to President Ali Abdullah Saleh urging him to review his and his two sons' cases.

In his plea, he noted that he and his two older sons were arrested based on the Sayoun incident and their salaries have been cut, potentially forcing his family to become vagrants.

He mentioned his son Murad in the letter, maintaining that his son would never do something like this, but if he had, he would be the first to take legal action against his son.

“Upon our arrest and learning of my son's crime, we requested every Yemeni security apparatus search for and find my son and then give him a fair trial,” the elder Al-Khamisi wrote, pointing out, “We were arrested June 21, 2007 and have waited until now without trial.”

However, Mohammed Al-Khamisi claims that the text of his father's letter sent to the head of Central Security was changed, “So his plea was in vain,” he said.