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Critical journalist given six-year prison sentence; ANHRI fears for his welfare

(ANHRI/IFEX) - ANHRI condemns the harsh sentence issued on 9 June 2008 by the Yemeni State Security Court against Abdel Karim Al Khaiwani, the former chief editor of the Yemeni newspaper "Al Shora" and the alShora.net website. Al Khaiwani was sentenced to six years in prison as one of 14 Yemenis accused in the case known as "The Second Cell of Sana'a". The Yemeni government has accused the defendants of supporting the militant Houthis opposition group.

Immediately following the issuing of the sentence, security officers arrested Al Khaiwani and led him to prison.

The investigations in this case began on 4 July 2007, when Al Khaiwani and his colleagues were accused of having organized a militia to commit terrorist attacks and of engaging in conspiracy with an illegal group. However, the State Security Court did not follow proper procedure in filing the case. Moreover, it did not provide valid evidence to substantiate the charges against Al Khaiwani. In spite of this, the Court has now issued its harsh verdict, confirming doubts about the fairness of this Court, whose sentences often resemble political revenge more than justice.

"Despite the courage of many Yemeni journalists, Al Khaiwani was exposed to legal prosecution because of his critical writings against the Yemeni government and the president; these seem to be the real reason behind the tough sentence," said Gamal Eid, the executive director of ANHRI.

With this sentence, Al Khaiwani has been transformed from a journalist whose freedom was endangered into a prisoner of opinion; this situation requires every possible effort to obtain his release. ANRHI also fears that, as an outspoken critic of the Yemeni president, Al Khaiwani's well-being will be at risk while he is in prison.

Updates the Al Khaiwani case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/93966

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