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COURT UPHOLDS JAIL SENTENCE AGAINST "PARDONED" JOURNALIST AL-KHAIWANI

In a shocking development last week, Yemen's Special Terrorism Court upheld a six-year jail sentence against journalist Abdul Karim al-Khaiwani, report the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the World Association of Newspapers (WAN). The journalist had been pardoned by the President in September 2008.

Al-Khaiwani was arrested in July 2007 and sentenced to six years in jail in June 2008 for supporting an alleged terrorist group in the northern province of Sa'ada.

He was pardoned three months later, and received formal assurances from the Minister of Justice and other judicial officials that the case had been closed.

According to IFJ, the prosecution had failed to make any direct link between al-Khaiwani and armed groups in Yemen. The evidence against him included only journalistic material, such as photographs of rebel forces and notes related to an interview with a rebel leader.

The IFEX members say that al-Khaiwani had not received any summons to attend the 26 January Special Terrorism Court hearing, nor notice that the trial was underway.

Al-Khaiwani, who is the editor-in-chief of the opposition website al-Shoura.net, has repeatedly been targeted for his work. In the 15 years he has been working as a journalist, he has been abducted and imprisoned, his website blocked and his family threatened. Last year, he was prevented from travelling to London to receive Amnesty International's prestigious human rights media award.

IFEX members and human rights officials have maintained that the case against al-Khaiwani is in retaliation for his criticism of the government and the President. His case has garnered major international attention, with global media coverage and thousands of people sending letters to Yemeni officials in the month following the June 2008 conviction. Twenty-seven IFEX members signed a joint action in August condemning al-Khaiwani's prison sentence and the deteriorating state of free expression in his country.

Al-Khaiwani remains free at the moment and it is unclear what may follow; but IFEX members fear the latest ruling will serve as a pretext for the authorities to restrict his rights to travel and work. IFEX members are calling for the pardon to be reinstated, and all charges against him to be dropped.

Visit these links:
- ANHRI: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/100406
- IFJ: http://tinyurl.com/blh838
- WAN: http://tinyurl.com/dfl8wb
- IFEX member joint action: http://tinyurl.com/afjkt7
- IFEX Yemen page: http://tinyurl.com/bq8a2b
(4 February 2009)

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