Six Yemenis remain in Chinese custody [Archives:2007/1039/Local News]

April 5 2007

SANA'A, April 4 ) Chinese police have refused to provide any information about six Yemeni detainees arrested in China eight months ago, further preventing visits and telephone calls to them.

According to the detainees' families, the six men, who were involved in exporting goods to Saudi Arabia, were arrested due to financial problems with other traders working in the same field. The families confirm that they already have settled the estimated $260,000 in debts, which was the reason for their arrest.

However, they now face other charges, as Mohammed Al-Bawab, Yemen's consul in China, explains, “Their case is in prosecution and they will be sent to court. Although they've paid their debts and loans, they are accused of fraud.”

Al-Bawab expects they'll be sentenced to a year in jail, noting, “As they've already been in custody for eight months, they may spend just four months more.”

He confirmed that he visited the six last November, reporting, “They were treated as respectably as any Chinese detainees;” however, under Chinese law, they aren't allowed any visitors or telephone calls.

The detainees are: Selah Bafadhal Mulhi, Khalid Abdulqawi Audh, Khalid Obadi, Salem Ahmed Ali, Walid Ahmed Ali and Mohammed Ahmed Ali.

“The Chinese regime doesn't allow us to contact those involved in this case,” explains Ahmed Hussein Baghrama, head of the Yemeni community in China, pointing to the difficulties Yemenis face there.

“The Chinese government doesn't recognize us as a community, so we try to help each other and solve our own problems, which mostly relate to business deals involving Yemeni residents in China,” Baghrama notes, “If such problems reach Chinese authorities, they become even more of a dilemma and then we resort to the consulate or the Yemeni Foreign Ministry to talk with the Chinese government.”

Al-Bawab says nine Yemenis are in Chinese jails: seven were arrested due to trade or financial issues and two for smuggling ivory. “We follow their cases and attend their trials,” the consul added.

Approximately 1,000 Yemenis reside in China, while another 4,000 traders and agents regularly travel to and from China, Baghrama says.