Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Free Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye

According to American and British journalists who know him a Yemeni journalist called Abdulelah Haider Shaye who is in jail in Yemen on charges of “associating with Al Qaeda” is not an Al Qa’ida supporter, but embarrassed the US and Yemeni governments when his investigations contradicted their claims. He was pardoned by Al Saleh, the dictator of Yemen, but a phone call from President Obama expressing ‘concern’ that he was to be released has resulted in him being left in jail (1).

Jeremy Scahill of the Nation magazine and a British journalist, who both know him, say he has never supported Al Qaeda. He used his contacts in Yemen to get interviews with  ‘Al Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula’ leaders in Yemen and asked them many critical and hostile questions about how they could justify supporting terrorist attacks, as well as general ones about their aims and motives (2).

He also reported on what the Yemeni government had claimed were Yemeni airstrikes on Al Qa'ida targets. He found evidence from shell and missile fragments that these were actually US missile and drone strikes and that while the US and Yemeni governments reported each strike to have killed many Al Qa'ida members, in fact the majority of the dead were civilians, including women and children and few of those killed were Al Qaeda. In particular he found one strike that they had reported as a great success and which supposedly killed 34 Al Qa'ida men actually killed mostly women and children.

Amnesty International and an investigation by a Yemeni parliamentary committee confirmed what Haider had reported (3).

He was also reporting that the Yemeni government were exaggerating the numbers of Al Qa'ida in Yemen in order to ensure they kept the same level of US military aid funding.

He was then jailed on charges of supporting Al Qaeda by a dodgy court set up by the Yemeni dictatorship (see Human Rights Watch's 2012 report on Yemen (covering 2011)) . At one point the regime was considering releasing him. Then President Saleh (the dictator of Yemen) got a phone call from President Obama saying he was very concerned about the possible release - and so he was kept in jail (4) – (6).

Investigative journalism to try to discover the facts is not supporting terrorism. The US ambassador to Yemen, when questioned on how Haider’s imprisonment would affect reporting by other journalists in Yemen, laughed and answered that they had nothing to worry about so long as they didn’t do what Haider did (i.e embarrass the US government and it’s client dictatorship in Yemen?).

There's a petition you can sign calling for Haider’s release here.

There are links to Committee to Protect Journalists reports on the case and other actions you can take here.

Glenn Greenwald on the case here.

(1) = Al Jazeera English 26 Mar 2012 ‘The dangers of reporting the 'war on terror'’, http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/listeningpost/2012/03/2012323201744332607.html

(2) = see (1) above

(3) = Amnesty International 07 Jun 2010 ‘Images of missile and cluster munitions point to US role in fatal attack in Yemen’, http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/yemen-images-missile-and-cluster-munitions-point-us-role-fatal-attack-2010-06-04

(4) = Human Rights Watch World Report 2012 : Yemen, http://www.hrw.org/world-report-2012/world-report-2012-yemen

(5) = White House press relase 03 Feb 2011 ‘Readout of President's Call with President Saleh of Yemen’, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/02/03/readout-presidents-call-president-saleh-yemen

(6) = The Nation 13 Mar 2012 ‘Why Is President Obama Keeping a Journalist in Prison in Yemen? ’, http://www.thenation.com/article/166757/why-president-obama-keeping-journalist-prison-yemen

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