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article imageYemen jails journo who wrote of US missiles that killed civilians

By Subir Ghosh     Jan 21, 2011 in World
The Yemeni journalist who had written about US involvement in missile attacks has been imprisoned for alleged links with al-Qaeda. Abdul Elah Hayder Shae has been sentenced to five years in prison followed by two years of house arrest.
Shae has been found guilty of "belonging to an illegal armed organisation" and "recruiting young people, including foreigners, to the organization by communicating with them via the Internet," New York-based press freedom group reported quoting pan-Arab daily Al-Quds al-Arabi.
Shae, who was the first Yemeni journalist to allege US involvement in an attack on the community of al-Ma’jalah in the Abyan area of southern Yemen on December 17, 2009, told reporters after a Sana'a court convicted him Tuesday that he had only been doing journalistic work. "This is fabrication by the authorities that is unfounded and untrue," he was quoted by Reuters.
The prominent journalist, who has consistently described the Yemeni government's policies on fighting armed Islamists groups as ineffectual, has refused to appeal. According to journalists present in the courtroom who spoke to CPJ, he said, "I do not stand now in front of a judiciary but in front of a gang belonging to the national security apparatus."
CPJ has condemned the sentence. Its Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, Mohamed Abdel Dayem, said, "We call for the immediate release of Abdul Elah Hayder Shae. Shae's initial incommunicado detention and his subsequent trial were plagued by dozens of procedural violations. We call on President Saleh to use his constitutional prerogative to intervene and pardon Shae."
Shae, who has frequently appeared on Al-Jazeera as a commentator, was detained on August 16, 2010, when a group of soldiers stormed his family house in Sana'a. His notes and computer were confiscated. He was reportedly tortured after his arrest and kept in solitary confinement.
The arrest was said to have been in connection with his report about civilian casualties in air attacks targeting Al-Qaeda members. "It is a big story that the government does not want to have told," Rashad Ali al-Sherabi, another journalist, told CPJ.
In June 2010, Amnesty International had released images of a US-manufactured cruise missile that carried cluster munitions, apparently taken following the al-Ma’jalah attack. A diplomatic cable leaked by the Wikileaks in November 2010 had revealed that the Yemeni government had indeed covered up US drone strikes against al-Qaeda there and claimed the bombs were its own. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh told Gen David Petraeus, then commander of US forces in the Middle East, that: "We'll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours."
Paris-based Reporters sans frontières (RSF) remarked, “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.”
“There are strong indications that the charges against Abdul Elah Hayder Shae are trumped up and that he has been jailed solely for daring to speak out about US collaboration in a cluster munitions attack which took place in Yemen,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “If this is the case, Amnesty International would consider him a prisoner of conscience and call for his immediate and unconditional release.”
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