7 March 2005
After six months in prison, journalist appears before appeals court
(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has called for the immediate release of jailed editor Abdulkareem Al-Khaiwani, who is serving a one-year prison sentence for defamation. The organisation has also called for the lifting of a six-month ban on Al-Khaiwani's weekly newspaper, "Al-Shura".
"We strongly condemn the use of imprisonment in defamation cases and we call on the Yemeni authorities to reform the Criminal Code so that prison terms for press offences are abolished. In Al-Khaiwani's case, such a heavy sentence and the issuing of a committal order appear to us to be completely disproportionate to the charge against him," the organisation said.
RSF also objected to the fact that the editor has had to wait six months to make an appeal. Since the six-month ban on the newspaper has now expired, it also called on the government to allow its reappearance.
After six months in prison, on 2 March 2005, Al-Khaiwani had his first hearing before the Sanaa Appeal Court. Several journalists and defence lawyers travelled to the court to support him but the case was transferred to a smaller courtroom to limit the show of support. Several people were forcibly removed on the judge's orders, including one of the journalist's lawyers. The verdict was postponed until 22 March.
Journalists' and lawyers' unions are organising a rally in support of the editor and to protest what they see as a violation of the Press Code, as well as the Constitution. The rally will be held on 5 March at the offices of the Yemeni journalists' union.
Al-Khaiwani was sentenced by a Sanaa court on 5 September 2004 on the basis of a complaint lodged by the Yemeni Information Ministry. He was found guilty of defaming President Saleh and of supporting, through his newspaper, Shiite leader Badr Eddin al-Hawthi's revolt against Sanaa authorities A committal order was issued against him at the end of the trial even though his lawyer, Jamal al-Goabi, immediately told the judge that he would be lodging an appeal.