Yemen: Editor under threat

English PEN would like to express our fears for the safety of Yemeni editor Abdel Karim Al-Khaiwani. According to PEN’s information, Abdel Karim Al-Khaiwani, former editor of the online opposition publication Al-Shoura, has been under threat since 20 June 2007, when his home was raided and he was arrested for his alleged links with the rebels fighting government forces in the city of Saada, north west of the country. It is thought that the charges relate to his journalistic activities. He was released on bail in late July, but still faces vague terrorism charges brought by a state security court on 4 July 2007. He has since been subject to continued harassment; his website has been blocked a number of times and both he and his family have been threatened.
On 27 August 2007,  Al-Khaiwani was subjected to an apparently politically motivated assault, when he was reportedly abducted by gunmen in civilian clothing whilst waiting for a taxi outside the offices of the weekly newspaper Al-Needa in central Sana’a. Al-Khaiwani recognized one of his abductors as one of the Yemeni security officers who raided his home in June. Al-Khaiwani was beaten and threatened with death for articles which allegedly harmed the President’s image and threatened Yemen’s national unity. His passport, identity cards and other belongings were confiscated during the attack. It is believed that his abduction was motivated by an article he wrote and published on 16 August 2007 by the weekly Al-Needa, entitled “What’s Before the State: A Homeland Behind Bars”. The article discussed the status of prisoners in the country’s prisons, prison conditions and alleged injustice. Following the attack,  Al-Khaiwani was treated at Al-Ahali Hospital in Sana’a and reportedly suffered extensive bruising on his face, chest, and hands.
Al-Khaiwani has been a harsh critic of the government for several years, and is particularly known for his writings against  the government’s fight with rebels in Saada. In 2004, as editor of the then-print weekly Al-Shoura, al-Khaiwani was sentenced to a year in jail for incitement, insulting the president, publishing false news, and causing tribal and sectarian discrimination through his published criticisms of the government’s conduct in the fighting.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), at least six Yemeni journalists have been the targets of assaults that were believed to be politically motivated since 2005. In all but one of the cases the perpetrators have not been identified by the authorities.
Please send appeals:

 – Expressing alarm at the continued harassment of Abdel Karim Al-Khaiweni, apparently for his critical writings;
 – Calling on the authorities to ensure the safety of Al-Khaiweni and his family, and that all necessary steps are taken to bring his attackers to justice
 – Seeking guarantees that he is allowed to exercise his right to free expression in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Yemen is a signatory.
Appeals to:
His Excellency General ‘Ali ‘Abdullah Saleh
Office of the President
Republic of Yemen
Fax: 967 127 4147
Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Yemen in your country if possible:
HE Mr Mohamed Taha Mustafa
57 Cromwell Road
London SW7 2ED

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