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Imprisoned journalists in deteriorating health

(CPJ/IFEX) - In an open letter, CPJ urges the Yemeni government to release two ailing journalists, one of whom has allegedly been tortured while in custody:

March 17, 2010

His Excellency President Ali Abdullah Saleh
C/o Ambassador Abdul Wahab al-Hajjri
Embassy of the Republic of Yemen
2600 Virginia Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20037

Via email: [email protected]

Your Excellency,

The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned about the health of imprisoned journalists Hisham Bashraheel and Muhammad al-Maqaleh and calls for their immediate release.

Al-Maqaleh, editor of the Yemeni Socialist Party news Web site Aleshteraki, disappeared in September 2009 after the site reported that Yemeni military airstrikes had killed civilians in the northwestern Saada region. Security officials denied knowledge of al-Maqaleh's whereabouts for several months before revealing in late January that they were indeed holding the journalist on antistate charges. Marwan Damaj, secretary of the Yemeni Journalists' Syndicate, has since visited al-Maqaleh and reports that the journalist has been "tortured, beaten, and threatened with death several times" while in government custody. The syndicate has urged the attorney general to halt mistreatment of al-Maqaleh, whose health is suffering amid harsh prison conditions and insufficient care.

Bashraheel, editor of the daily Al-Ayyam, was arrested on January 6 after security forces laid siege to his newspaper's offices in Aden. Two of his sons - Hani, who serves as managing editor, and Mohammed, who serves in an administrative capacity at the paper - were also arrested. Mohammed al-Amrawi, a lawyer for Al-Ayyam, said no charges have been filed against them as yet. Hisham Bashraheel underwent open heart surgery last year and needs regular medical attention, according to family members. He is also staging a hunger strike to protest his detention.

We appeal to your Excellency to release Muhammad al-Maqaleh and Hisham Bashraheel immediately so they may receive timely and adequate medical care. We also urge your government to investigate reports that al-Maqaleh has been tortured while in custody, and to hold the perpetrators responsible under the law.

Two other journalists have been in government custody for prolonged periods without charge. Our research shows that Fuad Rashid, editor-in-chief of the news Web site Mukalla Press, was detained on May 4, 2009, while Salah al-Saqldi, editor-in-chief of the news Web site Gulf Aden, was detained on June 18, 2009. Both had extensively covered civil unrest in southern Yemen, leading us to conclude that their incarceration is designed to silence their critical reporting.

We ask your government to review all cases in which journalists are being held without charge or due process, and to act expeditiously in setting these individuals free.

Thank you for your attention to these urgent matters. We await your reply.


Joel Simon
Executive Director

John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Richard Lugar, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Gary L. Ackerman, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia
Dan Burton, Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia
Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Stephen A. Seche, U.S. Ambassador to Yemen
Andrew McDonald, Yemen Desk Officer, U.S. Department of State

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