Free At Last! Yemeni Reporter Who Exposed U.S. Missile Strike Goes Home After 3 Years in Jail
The US Navy launches a Tomahawk cruise missile.
Photo Credit: U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons
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This is a transcript from Democracy Now!'s broadcast on July 25, 2013.
AMY GOODMAN: A prominent Yemeni journalist who was imprisoned for three years at the apparent request of the Obama administration has been released in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a. Abdulelah Haider Shaye was sentenced in January 2011 to five years in jail on terrorism-related charges, following a trial that was condemned by many human rights and press freedom groups. Shaye’s release Tuesday reportedly comes in the form of a presidential pardon that requires him to remain in Sana’a for two years. This could prevent him from traveling to the sites of U.S. drone strikes in Yemen, a topic he has previously reported on. Shaye was first imprisoned in 2010 after he helped expose the United States’ role in a 2009 cruise missile attack on the Yemeni village of al-Majalah that killed 41 people, including 14 women and 21 children. The Yemeni government initially took credit for the strike, saying it had targeted an al-Qaeda training camp. But it was later revealed through WikiLeaks cables that it was in fact a U.S. attack.
Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill reports extensively on this attack in his new book and film called Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield. He’ll join us in minute. But first, this is Abdulelah Haider Shaye speaking in 2010. He spoke to reporters from inside a caged cell in a Yemeni courtroom at his trial, saying he was arrested because he reported on the murders of children and women.
ABDULELAH HAIDER SHAYE: [translated] When they hid murderers of children and women in Abyan, when I revealed the locations and camps of nomads and civilians in Abyan, Shabwa and Arhab, when they were going to be hit by cruise missiles, it was on that day they decided to arrest me. You noticed in the court how they have turned all of my journalistic contributions and quotations to international reporters and channels into accusations. Yemen, this is a place where the young journalist becomes successful, he is considered with suspicion.
AMY GOODMAN: Within a month of Abdulelah Haider Shaye’s sentencing in 2011, then-Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced he was going to pardon the journalist. But Saleh apparently changed his mind after a phone call from President Obama. According to a White House read-out, Obama, quote, "expressed concern" over the release of Shaye. The journalist then remained locked up despite growing calls by human rights groups for his immediate release. Shaye’s lawyer, Abdulrahman Barman, described the impact of President Obama’s phone call.
ABDULRAHMAN BARMAN: [translated] Yes, there was a visit by some social figures and sheikhs to the president, and they negotiated his release and his pardon. We were all waiting in the office for the release memo, which was printed and prepared in a file for the president to sign. And he was to announce the pardon the next day. But the mediators were hasty to announce that pardon. That same day, President Obama called the Yemeni president to express U.S. concerns over the release of Abdulelah Haider.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Shaye’s attorney. He was talking to Jeremy Scahill. When we come back from break, we’ll be joined by investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill about the release of Abdulelah Haider Shaye. We’ll also be joined by a Yemeni activist. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: We continue on the release of the Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye. Prior to his arrest, he broke a number of important stories about al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and he did the last known interview with U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki just before it was revealed he was on a CIA hit list. Shaye’s work often appeared on Al Jazeera. His investigative reporting was used by international journalists. This is his friend, the dissident political cartoonist Kamal Sharaf.