October 1, 2009

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 3,400 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 grave concern for the safety of  Al-Eshteraki editor Muhammad Al-Maqalih, who was reportedly abducted from a Sana’a street on September 17, 2009 by a group of plainclothes security agents.

Mr. Al-Maqalih, 49, the father of seven children and the editor for the opposition Socialist Party’s web site, was abducted at night by a group of men in a white minibus with its license plates obscured. This happened following the publication of a report on alleged Yemeni military air strikes targeting civilians in the Sa’da Insurgency, which have been reported in the north west of the country since June 2004. It is common for political opponents and critics of the state to be arrested by security agents during political crises such as the clashes in Sa’da. Those abducted are often tortured or otherwise ill-treated.

Human rights activists in Yemen suspect that he may have been abducted because of his criticism of the government, in particular his comments published on the Yemeni Socialist Party’s web site, which criticized the army’s killing of civilians during clashes with followers of a Shi’a Muslim cleric in Sa’da.

Mr. Al-Maqalih was previously detained for several months in 2007 for “disrespecting the judiciary” after he laughed during the trial of award winning journalist, Abdulkarim Al-Khaiwani, who was sentenced to six years in prison in June 2008 for publishing articles critical of the government’s fight with rebels in Sa’da. Al-Khaiwani received amnesty in September 2008.

PEN is seriously concerned for the well being of Muhammad Al-Maqalih, and fears that he has been abducted in retaliation for the peaceful expression of his views in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Yemen is a signatory. We therefore call upon the Yemeni authorities to confirm Mr. Al-Maqalih’s whereabouts and to release him immediately and unconditionally. 

Thank you for your attention to this serious 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
Embassy of the Republic of Yemen
2319 Wyoming Avenue, NW
Washington DC 20008
Fax: (202) 337-2017

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