(RSF/IFEX) - In a letter to Justice Minister Ismaïl Ahmed El Ouazir, RSF protested the appeals court confirmation of the suspension of the weekly "Al-Choumou" and the sentencing of editor-in-chief Saif Al-Hadheri to six months in prison for "defamation". RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard asked the minister to "use all of his influence to ensure that the sentence was not applied." RSF noted that in January 2000, United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression Abid Hussain asked that "all governments ensure that press offences are no longer punishable by prison sentences, except in cases involving racist or discriminatory remarks or calls to violence." Lastly, RSF noted that in August, editor-in-chief Al-Hadheri was banned from practicing his profession as a journalist.
According to information collected by RSF, on 28 May 2001, the Sanaa appeals court confirmed the independent weekly "Al-Choumou"'s closure. Its editor-in-chief Al-Hadheri was sentenced to six months in prison for "defamation". On 8 November, two complaints were filed by the Ministry of Information about articles published in the paper in late October which were regarded as libellous towards Egyptian President Hosni Moubarak and several Yemeni ministers. The newspaper accused the Egyptian president of being "an accomplice of Israel and the United States as regards Arab and nationalist causes." In addition to the one-month closure, the weekly "Al-Choumou" was fined 10,000 riyals (approx. US$61; 89 euros). Al-Hadheri had appealed the sentence.
On 6 August, a Sanaa court banned Al-Hadheri from practicing his profession for a period of ten months and ordered him to pay two million riyals (approx. US$12,100; 14,500 euros) in damages to the education minister and his deputy. Al-Hadheri was convicted of "slandering" the minister, whom he had implicated in a corruption case. The court also fined the newspaper and Al-Hadheri for publishing articles about the trial proceedings.