Treated like a war criminal30 hours in custody [Archives:2005/878/Opinion]

September 19 2005

The thirty hours I spent in the Military Intelligence detention, part of the Air Forces in Sana'a, demonstrated material evidence that this authority has begun the complete terrorization of journalists in Yemen.

My detention is not the first or the last of its kind committed against a journalist in Yemen for publishing the facts. It is the first process of detention committed illegally by a military authority, which is not the party concerned.

The scene of the military detention was more dramatic as I received a call on my mobile saying “there is an officer who needs you”. I answered, “I am in a journalistic mission in the city of Marib and I told the person who was calling me about the address of the hotel I was in. As I tried to convince him that I am outside Sana'a, he spoke to me in an angry tone; “do not attempt to escape, you have to come now”.

After a long time argument, the unidentified person gave me an ultimatum of three days to allegedly meet a military commander. Three hours later, I was shocked to see some Air Forces troops aboard two military vehicles; one was carrying an anti-aircraft gun, entering the hotel. Seeing the scenario, I thought there was an arrest campaign to capture some war criminals or terrorists.

After a few minutes, I heard some people knocking on the door of my room saying “we are Air Forces troops and have been given orders to arrest you and take you to the house of the commander in Sana'a.” I used a variety of means to persuade them to give some time to finish my duty in the city of Marib which I reached only a few hours ago, but all my attempts have gone in awry.

Eventually I gave in and went with them on board one of the two cars amidst a crowd of residents who watched the scene as spectators. It was a dramatic scene similar to a police operation displayed in an Indian film.

The old military vehicle driver drove at high speed and for me it was the first time to be in a car driving at such terrible speed. I thought this speed is used as a mean for the military troops to get rid of me. As we entered the city of Sana'a, the officer who was given orders to take me to the commander received a call to drive me toward the Air Forces instead of going to the house of the commander.

Reaching the Air Forces, the officer was thanked for handing me to another officer on watch who said to his colleague, “thank you, your task was finished and you have to return to Marib”, but he said, “no I have been ordered to take him (Khaled al-Hamadi) to the house of the commander and then to return to Marib. The officer on watch told him “that was an old subject and we have received new orders”

I was put in the room of the officer on watch. My Jammbia along with my mobile was taken away, the telephone numbers saved on my mobile were all erased. I was shocked to receive such a kind of treatment and I felt difficult to look at people surrounding me.

In the room were four people chewing qat and smoking, turning the room into a chimney. I was about to stifle because of the intensive smoke. A singled minute had been passing as if it was an entire day, particularly as I found myself like a calm mass having no work except for counting minutes.

I had expected to be called to meet the commander, to be investigated or to be throne in an isolated cell when they were whispering. Being in pensive thought, people around me were laughing and making jokes without paying any attention to me as if I were a worm in the floor. I was anxious since my mother is suffering from hypertension, I feared there her condition might go from bad to worse when she learns of my ordeal.

I was deprived of making contact with my family except for once to tell them that I am with a group of people and that my stay with them may take a long time. I tried to sleep, but my eyes refused to close. I waited until the noontime of the second day to be called to a neighboring office. Then I was interrogated by two officers whom I told “you want to quiz me after I have been deprived of food and drink for a long time; do not you believe that I can not utter even a single word as my mouth has become dry because of hunger and thirst.

Listening to me, my interrogators felt ashamed of their behavior and gave me water and biscuit; one of the officers accepted my request to bring me lunch. On repeated points, I was interrogated from different corners; one question was shared among interrogators that was; “Who is the source that gave me information about my report published two weeks ago? I was interrogated with some gesture to reasons behind the crash of warplanes in Yemen, which caused trouble to the Air Forces. My captors asked whether I have a hot dog in the Air Forces or in the army.

The question that irritated me is that “How much money the newspaper granted you for publishing the report? I replied them “I never get any thing for my writing since I am a patriotic man like you claim yourself to be for dealing with negative aspects against the regime and disclosing corruption and corrupt individuals. Through the interrogation process, I perceived there was a wide gap the intelligence military organization, the political activities, the press freedoms and the democratic conduct experienced in the country of belief and wisdom.

My captors were dealing with me in the mind of the pro-democracy era, the time before the national unity. I explored their view dealing with a foreign newspaper as a kind of spy in favor of a foreign party. They claimed that publishing reports about the army in foreign newspapers is more harmful than domestic publication as it may harm its reputation of the Yemeni constitution abroad.

What was absolutely strange is that all my interrogators never read my report and everyone wanted me to give him some information about the article I published. One of them started to investigate me and never knew who I am and why I was arrested.

By the end of the investigation, my captors had attempted to force me to confess of what they registered. They were treating me as if I was a war criminal or a soldier who escaped from the battleground. I requested them to treat me as a journalist and it is persistent for them to understand the nature of the journalistic work but “a leopard can not change his spots.”