Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Members of press face death penalty over publication charges
Editor-in-Chief of Al-Share' Weekly Nayef Hassan, the paper's managing
editor Nabeel Subei and Mahmoud Taha, a reporter, appeared on Saturday
before Chief Judge of the State Security Penal Court Ridhwan Al-Namer at
the first hearing for a lawsuit filed against the newspaper by the Defense
At the hearing, the press members demanded that the court adjourn the
hearing so that they can appoint a lawyer to defend them. The judge then
accepted their request and adjourned the trial until December 8.
The 3 journalists were summoned last Wednesday to appear before the court
after the prosecution investigated them regarding the lawsuit by the
Defense Ministry against them for publishing a story about voluntary
fighters who support the army in the Sa'ada fighting. The indictment
demanded that the 3 pressmen be executed under new legal provisions.
Referring Al-Share' Weekly to State Security Court provoked protests at
domestic and international levels because the court specializes in
terrorism and not in publication or press issues.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) warned last August that
the lawsuit filed against the newspaper, followed by a raid on the
newspaper's head-office, is a dangerous assault on the independent press
in Yemen. The federation condemned charges filed by the Yemeni government
against the weekly, accusing it of threatening national security.
It also criticized the government for trying the newspaper in a state
security court, which is usually concerned with terrorism, adding, "If
convicted, the suspected journalists will be executed."
"We are shocked to see Yemeni authorities resorting to penal prosecution
and directing charges to members of the press, and such charges may risk
the lives of innocent journalists," Aidan White, IFJ Secretary-General,
said. "This issue has a terrible effect, as the media will fear publishing
any reports criticizing the government or the army in order to keep its
The Defense Ministry filed a legal action last July against Al-Share'
weekly after the newspaper published a series of stories and reports about
clashes between the Yemeni army and Houthi followers in the northern
province of Saada.
On July 30, ten armed men riding in a car with military plates raided the
newspapers office in search of chief editor Hassan, who was unavailable in
his office at that time. The armed men threatened to kill him in the
presence of newspaper employees.
Representing 600,000 journalists in 114 states, IFJ announced its support
for the protests staged by the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate (YJS), which
warned that referring the case to penal prosecution is a dangerous
precedent that may have bad consequences for journalists. According to the
syndicate, this precedent may have a negative impact on the constitutional
and legal pillars upon which the journalistic profession has been built
since the establishment of a unified state. "This may lead to abolishing
the constitutional and legal protection of freedom of press and
expression," the syndicate went on to say.
Marwan Dammaj, YJS Secretary-General, had earlier demanded that the Yemeni
government respect the rule of law, ensure legal protection for Al-Share
reporters and arrest the perpetrators who stormed the newspaper's office.
"The newspaper published an article about voluntary tribal leaders who
joined government troops in the fight against Houthi supporters. The paper
also wrote about corruption and the malicious desire of those who want
confrontations between the government and Houthis to last for a longer
period of time in order to serve their personal interests," Nabeel Subei
told the media. It also published reports about groups from the Aden-Abyan
Islamic Army, an active terrorist group in Yemen, who backed the army in
the fight against Houthis. These groups were training volunteers on how to
fight the so-called Sa'ada rebels."
In an unprecedented step, the case file was referred to penal prosecution
instead of press and publication prosecution. According to Article No. 176
of the Yemeni Penal Law, the Defense Ministry filed numerous charges
against Hassan, Subei and Taha, accusing them of harming national security
and stability, influencing the Yemeni army's morale and divulging military
Owned by prominent journalists Nayef Hassan and Nabeel Subei, Al-Share is
an independent weekly that issued its zero issue on the 3nd day of last
June. The papers first issue included reports about the Hashid fighters in
Sa'ada, thereby drawing the attention of readers and researchers seeking
facts about events there.
As the paper devoted a large amount of space for information about
developments, conflicts and complicated relations in Sa'ada, especially
the way army and tribal leaders deal with soldiers and volunteers, this
has helped increase its popularity among readers, particularly those
interested in the Sa'ada crisis.
Observers of the situation consider the issue a distinctive effort by the
newspaper and its reporters, who they believe outperformed other private,
independent and party-affiliated papers in covering developments in the
In an article titled "Bismarck", a name given to Sa'ada volunteers who
back the army in the fight against Houthi loyalists, the newspaper
reported that a large number of these volunteers were killed by the army,
while others fell victim to friendly fire. The newspaper mentioned that
the number of Bismarck fighters exceeded 9,000, most of who came from the
The paper's 1st issue included various subjects related to the Saada
crisis, such as Bismarck in Sa'ada', 'Bismarcks victims', 'Youths with
happy lives', 'The difference between fighters and leaders', and 'Hashid
is a threatening force'. The distinctive issue disclosed human
catastrophes and war crimes against humanity in the northern governorate
that has undergone repeated wars since June of 2004.
(source: Yemen Times)
# 3:55 PM