On the first day of his trial yesterday before a state security court, journalist Abdul Ilah Haydar Shae challenged the court’s legality and said those responsible for his abduction and forced disappearance should also be on trial.
His lawyers, Abdel Rahman Barman and Khaled Al-Anssi, attended the hearing as observers and reaffirmed their support for him, but refused to participate as his defence on the grounds that the trial was illegal. It was adjourned until 2 November.
“This court is utterly illegal,” Barman told Reporters Without Borders. “Article 49 of the constitution forbids setting up special courts to try people. Furthermore, Shae was arrested and imprisoned without any official grounds being given. He was beaten in front of his family and forcibly taken away at night to an unknown location. His personal effects were seized by the police and furniture was smashed because of the violence used in the raid. And then a month went by without anyone knowing what had happened to him.”
Abducted from his home by a special security unit on 16 August, Shae was held incommunicado for 34 days. The court ordered him moved to a state security detention centre on 22 September for interrogation. Barman said these detention centres had no legal basis, either under Yemeni law or under international law. They are not subject to any judicial control.
Barman added: “Shae was kept in solitary confinement for a further month, in a room without a toilet. He was tortured and has a broken tooth. At no time during his detention have we had access to his case file or been able to question him. Human rights and Yemeni law have been flouted. This court was created by presidential decision. It is a direct creation of the executive. The prosecutor is judge and jury.”
Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to free Shae at once and to abolish the special courts.
Unjust trial : Preposterous charges, arbitrary arrests and physical attacks
Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns the preposterous charges brought against the Sabaa news agency reporter Abdul Ilah Haydar Shae, whose trial before a special state security court is due to start today, and calls for his immediate release.
A specialist in covering Al-Qaeda, Shae has been charged by the attorney-general with inciting the murder of the president and his son, “belonging to a rebel group seeking to attack the country’s security” and “supporting it through the media and encouraging young people to join it.” His lawyers, who have not been allowed to visit him since his arrest in August, have said they will boycott the trial on the grounds that it is illegal and unjust.
“Shae has been detained in an iniquitous manner that contravenes all the legal principles in force in Yemen and his physical condition has been undermined by mistreatment, torture and solitary confinement,” Reporters Without Borders said. “As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights since 1987, Yemen should respect his right to a fair trial.”
Initially arrested on a Sanaa street on 11 July, Shae was released after being interrogated for several hours. He was rearrested on 16 August, placed in a Sanaa prison and then taken to a detention centre run by the intelligence services.
According to his lawyers, he bore the marks of blows on various parts of his body when he was taken before a court on 22 September, and one of his teeth was broken. The court ordered him held for another 30 days on the grounds that further investigation was needed. That deadline expired on 22 October.
Reporters Without Borders is also concerned about the continual attacks on journalists, especially by members of the security forces, who should be protecting them.
Al Jazeera cameraman Mohammed Al-Said and correspondent Hamdy Al-Bakary were manhandled by police and briefly detained in the southern city of Aden on 24 October while covering the trial of five men accused of bombing the Al-Wahda sports club in Aden earlier this month. The authorities did not offer any explanation for the incident.
Ghazi Al-Alawi, a member of the staff of the Aden-based newspaper Al-Oumana Al-Ahliya and a correspondent for the Al-Masdar Online news website, was beaten up by gunmen while covering an independence day celebration organized by the secessionist South Yemen Movement in Al-Habilin on 14 October. His camera was broken and he was taken to Radfan hospital for treatment to his injuries,
The assault took place just hours after his newspaper reported that President Ali Abdallah Saleh had met secretly with Ali Mounassar Mohammed, the secretary of the opposition Yemeni Socialist Party in Aden and leader of the South Yemen Movement, who was one of Alawi’s assailants.
Journalist and human rights activist Tawakol Abdulsalam Karman, the head of Women Journalists Without Chains, was detained for three hours on 12 October for organizing and participating in a demonstration in solidarity with residents of the Jaachen neighbourhood in Sanaa who had been evicted by Sheikh Nafedh.
A special court for press and publication matters fined Al-Nass managing editor Oussama Ghalib and reporter Fawzy Al-Kahily 50,000 real (165 euros) on 9 October on a charge of insulting and libelling the head of the Al-Mithaq Foundation for Publications, Adil Mohamed Qaid, by publishing documents in issue No. 20 of 2008 implicating members of the foundation in corruption.