International PEN is seriously concerned about the detention of Abdulelah Haider Shaea, a journalist who is known for his coverage of Islamist groups in the Arabian Peninsula. He is said to be facing charges of conspiracy to kill the president and his son, in addition to “carrying out terrorist acts.” It is widely believed that the charges are fabricated and that Shaea is targeted for his critical reporting. He is considered to be at risk of torture and ill-treatment, and there are concerns for his well-being in detention. PEN seeks further details of the charges against Shaea, and assurances of his well-being in detention. It urges the Yemeni authorities to abide by their obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Background Information

According to our information, Shaea was arrested at his home on August 16, 2010, by anti-terror police who reportedly beat him in front of his family and neighbors. Police also searched his home and confiscated his personal computer and notebook. He 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 the investigation.

According to his lawyer, who was allowed to meet with him only once, Shaea is in very poor health; he suffers from anemia for which he is not currently receiving any medical treatment.The lawyer reports that Shaea was tortured and ill-treated during interrogation and during his hearing extensive bruising was reportedly evident on his body. It is also reported that he was subjected to long hours of harsh interrogation during which he repeatedly lost consciousness.

This is the second time Shaea has been detained this year. 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 a few hours about his friends and on 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.     
Freedom of expression is highly restricted in Yemen, and PEN has long been concerned about the high number of journalists detained or threatened for their legitimate reporting on political issues. Several newspapers have been closed down or suspended, and many journalists have been arbitrarily detained for their coverage of sensitive issues including Al-Qaeda’s activities in the south and the Sa’ada insurgency in the north. Many detainees are taken before the Specialized Criminal Court, which was established in 1999 to try the crime of hiraba—a Shari’a term referring to offenses such as occupation of public land, theft of means of transport, and aggression against officials. In 2004, the government expanded the court's mandate, giving it jurisdiction to try people accused of vaguely-worded state security offenses. The court follows the regular Code of Criminal Procedures, but its proceedings reportedly generally fall short of international standards for fair trial.

Write A Letter

  • Expressing grave concern for the well-being and whereabouts of journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaea, and seeking further details of the charges against him;
  • Expressing concerns for Shaea’s safety, and seeking 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;
  • Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Shaea and all those currently detained in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Yemen is a signatory.

Send Your Letter To

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

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

Please also copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Yemen in your country if possible.

Please contact PEN if sending appeals after November 15, 2010: ftw [at]