January 19, 2010 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Journalist imprisoned for 'falsification' of the Koran

Journalist Moaz Ashhabi was sentenced on 16 January to one year in prison by a court in Sanaa dealing with press matters which also banned him from working as journalist for one year for “falsification of the Koran”. The charge related to his column that was carried by the weekly al-Thaqafa (Culture) on 7 October 2009. Ashhabi was taken to the Sanaa central prison the following day. The editor of the newspaper, Ahmed al-Maghlas, was given a three-year suspended prison sentence. “This sentence is extremely harsh and even more so since the journalist apologised both during the investigation and in front of the judges”, Reporters Without Borders said. “Ashhabi was tried by a special court and immediately imprisoned without right of appeal. This sentence is yet another violation of press freedom in Yemen where the authorities are handing down sentences to journalists with abandon”, the worldwide press freedom organisation said. The article that earned Ashhabi his jail sentence was headlined, “They corrected the Koran” and was published in issue no 503 of the weekly al-Thaqafa (published by the al-Jumhurriya, the Republic, Foundation), referring to a debate on chanting of the Koran that is causing an uproar in Yemen’s religious circles. Three members of parliament, Mohammed Nasser al-Hazimi, Aref al-Sabri and Mohammed al-Sadeq, reacted to the column with an article in the next issue of al-Thaqafa and later made a complaint against the journalist for “falsification of the Koran”. Ashhabi says that he has apologised on several occasions in the course of the legal proceedings, to his interrogators then to the judges at the press and publications court. Ashhabi has become the ninth journalist and netizen to be imprisoned in Yemen. The sentence was handed down on the same day a verdict was delivered against journalist Anissah Othman.