Reporters Without Borders roundly condemns the sentence of five years in prison followed by two years of house arrest that a Sanaa court specializing in terrorism cases passed today on Ilah Haydar Shae, a reporter employed by the Saba news agency, for allegedly collaborating with Al-Qaeda.
“The Yemeni authorities have used the pretext of combating terrorism to convict a journalist who is an expert on issues related to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and whose reporting tended to question the government’s security policies,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“We condemn the mistreatment to which he has been subjected since arrest, which can be regarded as a case of forced disappearance, and we demand his immediate release,” the press freedom organisation added.
Held since 16 August, the 34-year-old Shae was found guilty of bringing people to Yemen in order to help them join Al-Qaeda, and taking photos of security agency buildings, embassies and western interests to be targeted by Al-Qaeda.
According to the verdict, he also acted as a media consultant to Anwar Al-Awlaqi (a US-born radical cleric whose sermons are said to have inspired terrorist attacks in the United States), helped to circulate Al-Qaeda communiqués and wrote for its online magazine, Sada al-Malahem (Echo of the Battles). The same court yesterday sentenced Awlaqi in absentia to 10 years in prison.
Rejecting the verdict, Shae accused the courts of “working for the intelligence services” and refused to file an appeal.
Kept in solitary confinement in an intelligence agency detention centre in Sanaa since his arrest, Shae refused to attend several recent hearings because he disputed the court’s legality. He also disputed the legality of his arrest in August and a previous arrest on 11 July, insisting that those responsible for these arrests were the ones who should be prosecuted.
According to the information obtained by Reporters Without Borders, Shae has been tortured since his arrest (http://en.rsf.org/yemen-fourth-hearing-in-detained-24-11-2010,38885.html).
Meanwhile, Fouad Rashid, a journalist who was arrested arbitrarily in Al-Mukalla, the capital of Hadramaut province (500 km east of Sanaa), on 10 January, is still being held. Rashid is the founder and editor of the Arabic-language news website Al-Mukalla Press, which has regularly covered the unrest in the south of the country.
Born in 1970, he used to be a member of the staff of the newspaper Al-Massila and to write for the newspaper 26 September. He was previously arrested on 4 May 2009 (http://en.rsf.org/yemen-major-crackdown-on-independent-05-05-2009,32909.html) and was held without trial for more than a year, finally being released on the justice minister’s orders on 26 May 2010 (http://en.rsf.org/yemen-presidential-pardon-on-20th-25-05-2010,37555.html).