while security forces detain his supportersAl-Qarni sentenced to 18 months in prison [Archives:2008/1171/Front Page]

July 10 2008

By: Emad Al-Saqqaf
Yemen Times Taiz Bureau

TAIZ, July 9 ) Security forces in detained a number of people yesterday while they protested in front of the Taiz Court of Appeals soon after the verdict in Fahd Al-Qarni's case was announced. Al-Qarni is a Taiz-based performer who often uses political topics in his satirical songs and plays.

Yesterday morning at around 6am, one hour before the official work time starts, the court found Al-Qarni guilty of illegal acts against the government, which the said he perpetrated through his sarcastic comedic-art productions. Al-Qarni is affiliated with the Islamic Islah party. The early morning verdict was rumored to be a court tactic designed to prevent the media from covering the announcement.

A reporter for the Islah party mouthpiece Al-Sahwa Newspaper was among the number of the detained. Islah-affiliated Member of Parliament Fuad Dahabah was also subjected to aggression when he allegedly tried to prevent the security forces from hitting one of the protestors. Security forces also shot their weapons near the gathering in order to disperse the crowd.

Al-Qarni was sentenced to one and a half years in prison, fined YR 500,000 and ordered to hand over his recordings of all the productions. In addition, Al-Qarni will have a bail set on the condition that he would not reproduce any of his work.

The court session's timing and tightened security measures reflected the authorities' worries that Al-Qarni's supporters might gather and start riot around the city.

Abdul Hafidh Al-Faqeeh, the head of the Islah Party's Taiz Office, told the Yemen Times that the court's verdict against Al-Qarni was politically motivated. “The verdict was 'cooked' in the GPC's leadership premises and recited by the judge,” said Al-Faqeeh.

The defense board registered their right to appeal the verdict, whereas Abu Bakr Al-Qahtani, the head of appeals for the prosecution, affirmed that public prosecution was satisfied with Al-Qarni's verdict and sentence.