October 25, 2010

His Excellency General ‘Ali ‘Abdullah Saleh
Office of the President
Republic of Yemen
Fax: + 967 127 4147

Minister of the Interior
Mutaher Rashad al Masri
Ministry of the Interior
Republic of Yemen
Fax: +967 1 332 511

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,500 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our serious concern regarding the detention of journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaea.

According to our information, Shaea is facing charges of conspiracy to kill the president and his son, in addition to “carrying out terrorist acts.” It is widely believed that these charges are fabricated and that Shaea is being targeted for his critical reporting of Islamist groups in the Arabian Peninsula. He was arrested at his home on August 16, 2010, by anti-terror police who reportedly beat him in front of his family and neighbors, and searched his home and confiscated his personal computer and notebooks. Shaea was held incommunicado in the political security prison in Sana’a for 29 days before his first hearing on September 16, 2010. On September 22, the Specialized Criminal Court extended his detention for an additional 30 days to complete their investigation.  

According to Shaea’s lawyer, who was allowed to meet with him only once, Shaea has been subjected to torture and ill-treatment during interrogations, in which he repeatedly lost consciousness. Intensive bruising was reportedly apparent on Shaea’s body during his hearing. Also, according to the lawyer, Shaea suffers from anemia for which he is not currently receiving any medical care.  

This is the second time this year that Shaea has been detained. On July 11, he was abducted by men who reportedly identified themselves as government agents. He was blindfolded and led to a basement in an unknown location where he was interrogated for several hours about his friends and his reporting on Al-Qaeda. Another journalist, Kamal Sharaf, who was arrested alongside Shaea and released after 23 days, reports that Shaea could be targeted for interviews he gave to U.S.-based media.    

PEN American Center is deeply concerned for the well-being and whereabouts of journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaea, and seeks legitimate assurances that he is not being tortured or ill-treated in detention in violation of Article 5 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We believe that his arrest is part of a broader campaign against freedom of expression in Yemen, in which a high number of journalists have been detained and multiple newspapers closed. We therefore call for Shaea’s immediate and unconditional release, as well as the release of all others currently detained solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression as protected by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Yemen is a signatory.  

Thank you for your prompt attention to this critical matter.

Hannah Pakula                   
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee                 

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: Minister of Human Rights
Houda ‘Ali ‘Abdullatif al-Baan
Ministry for Human Rights
Republic of Yemen
Fax: +967 1 444 833

H.E. Abdulwahab Abdulla Al-Hajjri
Yemeni Ambassador to the United States
Embassy of the Republic of Yemen
2319 Wyoming Avenue, NW
Washington DC 20008
Fax: (202) 337-2017

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