Cross-posted from Jane Novak of Armies of Liberation (Scroll down to the bottom of this post to sign the petition if you’re short on time. It’s a good cause):
While the USS Cole bombers are all free in Yemen, my friend the Yemeni journalist Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani will be sentenced May 21 in a bogus trial and likely will get the death penalty or a long prison term. He is charged with insulting the president and demoralizing the military with an article about the Sa’ada war. He is an internationally renowned journalist and one of Yemen’s most prominent and outspoken democracy advocates
This is the guy I made the online petition for in March 2005 and the bloggers all helped and he got amnesty. Since then he and I have become good friends. He loves democracy as much as I do. And he’s paid the price for it. Since he was released in 2005, Al-Khaiwani has been beaten, kidnapped, censored and imprisoned. His paper was cloned, his website blocked and his children threatened.
Al-Khaiwani was badly beaten during his arrest in June 2007. His daughter, six year old Ebba, was slapped by police so hard that she fell unconscious. After Al-Khaiwani’s arrest and release on bail, he was kidnapped and badly beaten again. The US State Department issued a statement from DC noting his abduction pointed to, “disturbing trend of intimidation and harassment of Yemen’s journalist community.”
Al-Khaiwani was charged on July 4 with aiding the rebel movement by publishing war news. As you may know, the war in Sa’ada has been called a state sponsored genocide with strong parallels to the Sudan. I published photos of the damage in Sa’ada caused by indiscriminate (or deliberate) government bombing. I interviewed rebel spokesman Yahya al-Houthi, and posted it. (This website is now banned in Yemen.) By the standard of “demoralizing the military”, I’d also be subject to the death penalty if I was in Yemen. So would half of the bloggers here in the US.
As al-Khawiani’s sentencing approaches on May 21, fear is growing in Yemen and internationally that a guilty verdict in his case will open the door for a brutal crackdown on Yemen’s already endangered journalistic community.
Some Al-Khaiwani quotes:
October 27, 2005 Yemen Times article by al-Khawiani “Stop Attacking the American Journalist” :
“Being an independent political article, Jane is an effective voice having its strong reverberation in different parts of the world. After their failure to attract Novak to their side, the Yemeni authorities turned to terrorize journalists, harm the reputation of Novak and prevent the circulation of her articles in the country in order not to let the Yemeni journalists know the westerners who back them.”
Dec 2004, he wrote me from jail, “Democracy and freedom are not granted by a leader or a regime, it is a world wide human achievement of all the free people on earth.” and “I believe in democracy, freedom, equality and rights and am willing to suffer for their sake simply because I do not wish my children to suffer dictatorship and I will strive to provide them a better future.”
May 2004, “We will continue our fight against corrupt crooks at the power center who are annoyed by the reports that have touched their interests,” he told the Yemen Times.
December 2006, he wrote to the United Nations, “The State hunts us, abuses our rights, and restrict our freedom of expressions. We were subjected to abduction, forcible disappearance, and illegal and unconstitutional arrests. We are deprived of our livelihood sources because we criticize corruption and the military regime that has been grasping power for 28 years.” (The United Nations failed to respond.)
In February 2007, al-Khaiwani was forcibly brought to court related to a published article. “I wished the court showed a similar zest in Anisah Al-Shuabi’s case or doing justice to Raash villagers,” he noted, referring to women raped by police and an entire village displaced at the whim of a sheik.
February 2007, he said his website Al-Shoura was blocked, “because we are criticizing corruption, the prejudices of rights and freedoms, and our continuing need for political and cultural reforms and good governance.”
December 2007: Al-Khiwani told MENASSAT.COM, “I am paying the price for believing the government and its claims about pursuing rise of democracy. After they broke into my house and terrified my family and kidnapped me in public, in front of the Al-Nida newspaper, I have this feeling that the authorities have decided to spill my blood.”
Article 19’s report on Yemen, “Freedom of Expression in Peril”, contains this from Al-Khaiwani, “They mobilize religion, laws and even the tribe against us. We, on the other hand, only own our dreams. They even want to rob us of this.”
4/28/08: IFJ Calls on Yemeni President to End Intimidation of Independent Journalism and Media
2/6/08: CPJ Annual report Yemen
CPJ’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee Testimony about al-Khaiwani’s case
11/2007: RSF: Journalist faces possible death penalty over photos “liable to undermine army morale”
9/07/07: US State Department Notes Disturbing Trend
8/27/07: CPJ: Yemeni editor abducted, severely beaten
8/26/07: RSF Despite Denials, Security Officials Were Involved in the Kidnapping
CPJ troubled by terror charges against outspoken Yemeni editor
Of course, in reality, He Beat Himself Up to Embarrass the Security Forces: Commenting on the kidnapping, the state-run media quoted an unidentified security official as saying, “The allegations are pure lies and fabrications similar to a play arranged with the objective of offending the reputation of the security agencies and the political regime, pluralism and democracy.”
7/16/07 Apology Letter to Al-Khaiwani from His Lawyer Khaled Al-Anesi: What Can Be Done by Lawyer in Cases Where Accused Is Convicted Until Proved Otherwise
Your release does not need a defense memo or a lawyer request, but needs a moment of euphoria by the one who gave the directions to arrest you that he heard enough about the champions of detaining, beating and insulting you, preventing others to visit you and ignoring your requests and your case details to the extent that they detained you in your underwear….Father of Wala’a (name of his second daughter), note that the judge and prosecution voices were transferred through microphones whereas there is no microphone in the hands of defense or in your hands and then you will understand why I refused to stand when I was requested to stand to defend you as I prefer not to be a defendant without a voice…
The Power of the Pen my article from December 13, 2004, . Iran Daily (they stole it from a Pakistani newspaper) and didn’t even put my name.
Links on al-Khaiwani’s 2004 imprisonment:
super short version:
Sign here. Its a letter campaign to the Yemeni government, US and EU for Yemeni journalist al-Khaiwani who may be sentenced to death in two weeks for insulting the president. We can’t have that. No.
So sign a letter here.
Update: Side bar widget available ( thanks Vicky) Write me for the code: firstname.lastname@example.org
Update 2: Nicki is doing the links. Yay!