Monday, July 14, 2008

Abdul Kareem Al-Khaiwani and Yemen

Increasing harassment of journalists and deteriorating state of free expression in Yemen
ARTICLE 19 criticizes sentence against al-Qarni
12/07/2008 LONDON, NewsYemen
ARTICLE 19 is deeply concerned by the deteriorating state of free expression in Yemen after a Yemeni court sentenced artist Fahd al-Qarni to 18 months in prison and imposed a fine of YR500,000 (about US$2,500).
In another development, the verdict in the case of Abdul Kareem Al-Khaiwani was amended, thus prohibiting appeal. Security forces have also harassed activists protesting against this decision.
"The sentence against Mr. al-Qarni, the change in the case of Mr Al-Khaiwani and the manhandling of protesters are all indicators of an alarming trend in Yemen of increasing harassment of journalists and public figures in the opposition," said Dr. Agnès Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.
Al-Qarni was sentenced at 6.30a.m. on July 9, two hours before the start of official working hours, to 18 months in prison and a fine of 500,000 Yemeni Riyals to be paid to the General People's Congress and the Culture Office in Ta'az. According to a local journalist, al-Qarni called on Yemenis to congratulate him for this sentence. Supporters present in the vicinity of the court were also allegedly harassed.
Al-Qarni was arrested in April this year by security agents as he was heading to Aden to participate in a festival. The arrest is perceived to be politically motivated and in response to Al-Qarni's position against corruption in Yemen. In July 2006, members of the Criminal Investigations Bureau arrested shopkeepers in an effort to prohibit the circulation of a cassette by the popular artist. The cassette combines traditional folk compositions with humour and criticism of the government's policies.
On a different front, the verdict in the case of Mr. Al-Khaiwani was suddenly amended earlier this week to include the phrase "expedited implementation," which according to local reports prohibits appeal and release pending appeal.
ARTICLE 19 joins the Sisters' Arab Forum, the Dialogue Forum, the Change Organization for Human Rights, the Media Women Forum, and the Democratic Social Forum in their appeal to Mr. Esam al-Samawi, the chairman of the High Judiciary Council, for clarification regarding the change in verdict.

ARTICLE 19 also condemns the harassment of protesters and activists demonstrating peacefully outside the Supreme Court and later the headquarters of the Yemeni Journalists' Syndicate. Cameras were seized from protesters and Al-Jazeera was allegedly barred from covering the protest.

Abdel Karim Al-Khaiwani has been regularly targeted by the authorities and was arrested and charged in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008. ARTICLE 19 has recently expressed deep concern over the sentence of Al-Khaiwani in what is believed to be a politically motivated ruling. On June 9, Mr. Al-Khaiwani was sentenced to six years imprisonment for alleged ties with the Houthi rebels fighting government forces in Sa'ada province in the northwest of the country. Mr Al-Khaiwani is an outspoken critic of the government.

ARTICLE 19 urges the Yemeni government to reaffirm its commitment to the protection of human rights. This commitment was set out clearly in the National Reform Agenda, adopted by the government in 2006. Yemen has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and is therefore obliged as a matter of international law to respect the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the ICCPR. Yemen has also acceded to the Arab Charter on Human Rights which, under Article 32, guarantees the right to information and free expression.

Critical singer al-Qarni sentenced to jail, fined $2500
TAIZ, NewsYemen A primary court, Poli, in Taiz, south of Yemen, on Wednesday sentenced the popular singer Fahah al-Qarni to one year and a half term in prison and fined him Yr300,000 ($1500) to be paid for the ruling party, the General People's Congress, and Yr 200,000 ($1000) to be paid for the Culture Office in Taiz. The verdict session was the first to be held at 06:00 am, two hours before usual work time.
The verdict session was the first to be held at 06:00 am, two hours before usual work time.

Police fired to air to disperse people, MPs, representatives of the National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms and a group of journalists who rallied outside the courtroom in solidarity with al-Qarni and condemned the sentence. Police also offended some journalists and human rights advocates who condemned the sentence.

The Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) condemned the sentence that they described as "presidential order against the brave Fahad al-Qarni. JMP said in a statement that the sentence was "unfair and deviant"

"The session was held out of the court's official work time to prove that the judiciary is still in hand of the executive authority and being used as a means to repress people for their political views," said the statement.
It called on the authorities to release al-Qarni and all political prisoners "in prisons across the country."
The courts should be set up for those corrupt and outlaws who control the country's resources and wealth of all Yemeni people from Mahra to Sa'ada, not for honest and credible voices that fight corruption, injustice and oppression," it said.
Al-Qarni is a famous Yemeni popular singer for his critical songs against occupation and wrong behaviors of the government officials and ministries. He was put in prison many times for his critical tapes which are widely spread in the country, especially among ordinary citizens.

IFJ Renews Call for Justice for Yemeni Journalist Abdelkarim Al Khaiwani
28/06/2008 , SANA’A, NewsYemen
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) congratulated Yemeni journalist Abdelkarim Al Khaiwani winner of Amnesty International's "Sepcial Award for Human Rights Journalism Under Threat" and renewed its call for journalist organisations around the world to support Al Khaiwani as he challenges a six-year jail sentence handed down by the state security court.
"Abdul Karim is one our members and a very special member too," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha "He is one of those rare breed of journalists, some of the bravest and the most determined - those who are prepared to sacrifice their personal and professional lives for the public good. Abdul Karim is convinced that standing up to bullies and having to face up torture and imprisonment can make the difference."

The award was presented by BBC Journalist Alan Johnston, who was kidnapped in Gaza last year. Boumelha accepted the award on Al Khaiwani's behalf in London on Tuesday at the 17th Amnesty International Media Awards attended by 400 journalists, writers, photographers, broadcasters and other media executives.

"The independent opposition press, one of the most important instruments for peaceful change and democratic reform, is operating in a tough and precarious environment, especially in the absence of an independent judiciary, lack of respect for the rule of law, widespread corruption and the government control/monopoly over TV and radio," Al Khaiwani wrote in a speech that Boumelha read at the awards ceremony.

"The IFJ and the international community of journalists are grateful that Amnesty is recognising the contribution made by Abdul Karim," Boumelha said. "But this should go further that supporting the steadfastness and courage of one journalist battling against his tormentors. It should also be a recognition through him of all the struggles and all the sacrifices made by many journalists and others to advance freedom, justice, democracy and human rights in Yemen and the rest of the Arab World."

The IFJ says that the punitive sentence handed down against Al Khaiwani is not justified by the meagre evidence laid against him and is a sign that the authorities are trying to intimidate journalists over reporting of sensitive security issues. The IFJ says Al Khaiwani's case must be reviewed and allegations against him should be substantiated by evidence that can be tested in open court. Meanwhile, he should be released from jail immediately pending an appeal and review of the proceedings.

The IFJ has also fears over the physical condition of Al Khaiwani. "An additional concern for us is Mr Al Khaiwani's poor health and we urge the President also on humanitarian grounds to secure his release so that he can receive the medical care he needs," IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said in a recent letter to Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh.

The IFJ has launched a campaign calling on its member unions to send letters of protest over Al Kaiwani's unfair conviction to President Saleh.
News Yemen Tel No. : + 967 1 402 513 Fax : + 967 1 469 467 Email: ARTICLE 19, IFJ, ------------------------------------------

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