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Critical journalist jailed for laughing in court during editor's trial

(IPI/IFEX) - The following is an IPI press release:

IPI Condemns Jailing of Yemeni Journalist for Laughing in Court

Vienna, 24 June 2008 - The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 120 countries, condemns the jailing of Mohammed Al-Mokaleh, one of the founding members of the Yemeni Journalist Syndicate, for laughing in a Yemeni court.

According to information before IPI, on 15 June, a Yemeni prosecutor accused Al-Mokaleh of "attacking and defaming the judicial system," for laughing out loud during the concluding moments of the trial of Abdelkarim Al-Khaiwani, former editor-in-chief of the Al-Shoura newspaper, in late April 2008. Al-Mokaleh, who is also head of the media section of the opposition Socialist Party, has been a vocal critic of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his policies.

Initially, Al-Mokaleh was to be held for 14 hours. However, the prosecutor refused to release him, and extended his sentence to one week. The final sentence imposed on Al-Mokaleh, who by now has been held for two months, is a six-month suspended sentence. Despite efforts by an advisor to the President as well as several Yemeni members of parliament, the judge has refused to release Al-Mokaleh on bail.

IPI Director David Dadge commented: "We strongly condemn this jail sentence, and note with concern that this incident comes just a few weeks after the sentencing of another vocal government critic, suggesting that the press freedom environment in Yemen continues to deteriorate."

For further information on the Al-Khaiwani case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/94351

For further information, contact IPI at Spiegelgasse 2/29, A-1010 Vienna, Austria, tel: +43 1 512 90 11, fax: +43 1 512 90 14, e-mail: Uta Melzer (Africa) at [email protected]; Barbara Trionfi (Asia) at [email protected]; Michael Kudlak (Americas) at [email protected]; Husam Madhoun (MENA) at [email protected]; Colin Peters (Europe) at [email protected]; Oliver Vujovic (SEEMO) at [email protected], Internet site: http://www.freemedia.at

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