Thabet’s lawyers demand accountability for PSOPSO’s actions condemned [Archives:2004/720/Front Page]

March 15 2004

Mohammed Al-Qadhi
The case of journalist Saeed Thabet Saeed was resumed last Wednesday on charges of “spreading false news” regarding the thwarted assassination attempt targeting Colonel Ahmad Ali Abdullah Saleh. The case was attended by over 50 lawyers who volunteered to represent the journalist after he was kidnapped on the fifth of March by agents of the Political Security Organization.
A big crowd of journalists including the Chairman of the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate (YJS) Mahboob Ali and its board, politicians, MPs and other human rights activists were there to show support for the journalist who works as a reporter for the London-based Quds Press agency.
The lawyers criticized the intelligence agency and prosecution and demanded that they should be held accountable for kidnapping and detaining a member of the YJS board.
Saeed Thabet was snatched by agents of the PSO on March 5th from the street when he was going home with his 3-year old child. He was detained at the PSO for two days and after the journalists carried out a sit-in at the PSO premises on Sunday, he was returned to the prosecution. The prosecution interrogated him and ordered he should be put in jail before he was taken to court the other day.
Advocate Abdulaziz al-Samawi said in his defense before the Sana'a Western Court that “the arrest and detention of Thabet by the PSO cannot be described as a reluctance of the state in performing its constitutional duty in ensuring freedom for the people but using it as a means for abusing this freedom.” He demanded in the pleading signed by over 50 lawyers that “those people involved in kidnapping and arresting Thabet either from the PSO or the prosecution should be punished and the journalist should be acquitted.”

Al-Samwi considered the refusal of the prosecution to release the journalist immediately on Sunday evening to be “a justice denial crime” which punishable either by sacking or a fine. The advocates showed surprise how the prosecution can depend on the report of the PSO in sending the journalist to court despite the fact that he denied in that report that he sent the piece of news to his agency in London. Saeed said it was he who told his agency that the news of the assignation attempt was untrue. Quds Press even sent a letter supporting the journalist's claims. It even authorized advocate Mohammed Allow to file against the perpetrators of its reporter's arrest without any legal warrant. According to reliable sources, the agency intends to document the incident in a book both in Arabic and English; it would contain all the reports and statements written on it.

Muttasem, the 3-year old child of Thabet was brought before the court as a victim of the kidnapping, as he was with his father when he was arrested. The PSO officers refused to let Thabet take the child home, leaving him alone for one of Thabet's neighbors to care for. This show stimulated the anger of the audience at the court against the perpetrators. Yemen Times learnt that the child is suffering a sort of phobia to let his father leave the house alone and wants to accompany him all the time.

The advocates warned that if the perpetrators are not held accountable for this act, such behaviour would make the country a jungle. The prosecutors were dumbfounded and asked the court to delay the hearings until Tuesday, March 23 so as to be able to refute the pleading.

Reporters Without Borders urged the court judge last week that the charges against Thabet should be dropped, and stated that his arrest and detention for 72 hours was an unacceptable violations of press freedom. It also demanded that the prison terms of press offences should be abolished. Of course, the journalists intend to sign an appeal to President Saleh to take an action in this regard.