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Previously pardoned journalist Abdel Karim Al Khaiwani ordered to serve 6-year prison sentence

(ANHRI/IFEX) - ANHRI strongly denounces the 26 January 2009 decision by Yemen's Special Terrorist Court upholding the initial sentence against prominent journalist Abdel Karim Al Khaiwani to six years in prison, originally levelled against him in June 2008. This decision is contrary to the presidential pardon the journalist received in September, and formal assurances from the Minister of Justice and other judicial officials that the case had been closed.

The court upheld the 6-year prison sentence against Al Khaiwani who was charged with being a member of a terrorist cell and part of the Al Houthi faction. According to Al Khaiwani, he had not been summoned to a court session and had not been notified that the trial was underway. Moreover, the court did not consider an appeal filed by the defense against the severity of the initial sentence passed on 9 June, despite the fact that the hearing had been documented by several local and international media.

ANHRI voices its extreme disapproval of the court's decision to uphold the ruling against Al Khaiwani and the continual harassment and persecution that the journalist has suffered for years. He has been subject to abduction, arrest, detention, imprisonment and a ban on travelling. In 2008, he was prevented from receiving an Amnesty International human rights media award. The authorities also prohibited the head of the International Federation of Journalists from coming to Yemen to deliver the award in person.

According to ANHRI, the court's decision to disregard the presidential pardon is no contradiction to reality in Yemen, as the authorities continue to suppress all expression of free and independent opinion and criticism whilst ignoring legal precedents and principles. The prisons are overflowing with those who dare to voice their opinions or criticise the violations against the press, journalists, and opinion makers which are perpetrated by the authorities, including the president, in a country where freedom is virtually non-existent, and under a regime stubbornly devoted to the harassment and oppression of journalists, writers, and activists.

ANHRI firmly believes in the right to freedom of expression and opinion enshrined in international law which should guarantee the safety of Al Khaiwani and proponents of freedom of expression. Instead, journalists face constant persecution for their opinions and their views. Thus ANHRI demands that the presidential pardon be upheld, and that the court's decision, which is contrary to all legislation and law, be revoked immediately. The organisation also calls for an end to political and revenge trials against activists upholding freedom of expression. The upholding of the initial prison sentence only points to the lack of credibility of the Yemeni president, in the face of the withdrawal of the formal presidential pardon granted to Al Khaiwani.

Updates the Al-Khaiwani case:

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