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British journalist deported, two fixers held by security forces

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has written to Yemeni interior minister Mutahar Rashad Al-Masri calling for the immediate release of two brothers, Ali Nasser Kaid Al-Bokheiti and Mohammed Ahmed Hassan Al-Bokheiti, who were arrested on 21 July 2008 at a military roadblock with a British freelance journalist for whom they working as fixers.

The British journalist was deported the same day. They have been held ever since at the headquarters of the political security police in Sanaa. They have not been taken before a judge, they have not been charged and they have not been allowed to see a lawyer during the month they have been held.

"We wrote to one of your predecessors three years ago about the detention of two fixers, Munif and Naif Damesh, who were arrested with two foreign journalists," Reporters Without Borders said in its letter. "On their return from Sadah, there were held for six weeks at political security headquarters, probably in the same cells that Ali Nasser Kaid Al-Bokheiti and Mohammed Ahmed Hassan Al-Bokheiti have occupied for the past month."

The letter added: "The arrests of the Bokheiti brothers are the latest example of the news blackout that your government is trying to impose on the fighting in northern Yemen. Foreign journalists are only allowed to move about the country with a guide appointed by the information ministry. Those who do not comply with this requirement are sent home and their Yemeni employees are summarily jailed."

The family, which has not received any news about the two brothers, has voiced growing concern to Reporters Without Borders.

"We call for the immediate release of Ali and Mohammed because they did not commit any crime," a member of the family said. "The fact that the authorities have not so far brought any charges against them is evidence of this. We are forbidden to see them, which is against the law. We have learned from indirect contacts that they are accused of helping a foreign journalist go to Sadah. The authorities do not want the public to know about the damage done to the town by the air raids."

The British journalist being accompanied by the Bokheiti brothers had wanted to go to Marib, a place visited by tourists 800 km northeast of the capital. After being arrested at a military roadblock, all three were escorted back to Sanaa and taken to the headquarters of the public security department, where they were interrogated separately. The British journalist was put on a flight to Qatar later that evening.

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