Yemen releases two half dead editors as the US notes atrocities,increases terror aid
Yemen released the editor of the banned Al Ayyam after holding him without charge for three months. The 66 year old Hisham Basharaheel was freed in extremely poor medical condition. There was no word on the status of his two sons who were imprisoned at the same time. Al-Ayyam, one of the largest dailies in the south, was closed in May last year over allegations that, by reporting news of civil unrest, the paper “harmed unity.”
Also released today was Mohammed al Maqaleh arrested in September after reporting on a military airstrike in the war torn Sa’ada province that targeted a group of refugees sheltering in an open field. Over 80 were killed, and dozens wounded. Al Maqaleh was kidnapped the next day, and for months Yemeni authorities denied that he was in custody. Brought to court in February, al Maqaleh recounted various methods of torture including mock executions, beating and starving. The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomed his release, urging Yemen to release or bring to trial other journalists held without charge.
Both men were hospitalized upon release and are expected to live. There are thousands of other political prisoners in Yemen including several journalists. In February, the funeral of 28 year old Fares Zaid al Tamah, who died in police custody in Aden on January 30 drew tens of thousands. Mr. al Tamah was allegedly tortured to death in the escalating government violence against activists and protesters in Yemen.
Earlier in the month, Yemen’s Ministry of Information seized Al Jazeera’s and al Arabyia’s broadcast equipment on the grounds that the news channels, operating in Yemen for years, lacked the proper licenses. Journalists said they had received warnings from the state to stop reporting on the brutal government response to southern unrest.
State Atrocities Common
The US State Department in its annual report Human Rights Practices in Yemen found that in 2009, “Serious human rights problems increased significantly during the year.” The report recounted numerous murders of southern protesters by police, as well as thousands of political arrests and an epidemic of torture in jail.
Yemen also significantly increased restrictions on freedom of speech, press, and assembly by harassing, arresting and intimidating journalists, opposition members, civil leaders and academics, the report stated.
Another pattern of state atrocities related to the Saada war where the Yemeni military “waged an extensive campaign of aerial bombardment in the Saada and Amran governorates, destroying many villages and killing hundreds of civilians, according to press reports.” More than 175,000 persons are displaced and only about 30,000 are in UN refugee camps.
The US increased military support to Yemen’s brutal central government in the wake of the failed Christmas day bombing of an airliner as it was landing in the US. Over half of Yemeni children are stunted from malnutrition.