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Yemeni Journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye to be Pardoned - this time? - darkhorse - 05-22-2013 03:39 PM

Yemen signals it may release journalist accused of AQAP ties
J. Dana Stuster, Foreign Policy, May 8, 2013

[Image: shaye.jpg]

Yemen's transitional government is signaling that it may release Abdulelah Haider Shaye, a Yemeni journalist who was arrested in August 2010 and who U.S. intelligence officials believe supported al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Shaye was sentenced to five years in prison in January 2011 in a trial that drew condemnation from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, and human rights and journalist advocacy organizations have since campaigned for his release.

In a meeting with U.N. officials on Monday, Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi told reporters that he has made plans to release Shaye, Yemen's al-Masdar reports. Al Jazeera bureau chief Saeed Thabit Saeed, who attended the meeting, wrote on Facebook, "We received a serious promise from [Hadi] that our colleague Abdulelah Shaye will be released," and Times of London correspondent Iona Craig confirmed with Hadi's office that there "is an order from the president to release Shaye soon."

This is not the first time that Shaye's release has been considered. In fact, soon after his 2011 trial, Shaye's release seemed imminent. "We were waiting for the release of the pardon -- it was printed out and prepared in a file for the president to sign and announce the next day," Shaye's lawyer, Abdulrahman Barman, told Jeremy Scahill in his new book, Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield. But that plan fell through after a Feb. 2 phone call between then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh and President Barack Obama, in which Obama "expressed concern over the release of [Shaye], who had been sentenced to five years in prison for his association with AQAP," according to a readout of the call released by the White House.

The White House's position hasn't changed in the ensuing two years. "We remain concerned about al-Shai's potential early release due to his association with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told FP by email on Wednesday.

Nor, for that matter, is Shaye's release certain. Mohammed al-Basha, a spokesperson for the Yemeni embassy in Washington, walked back reports of the journalist's imminent release, telling FP that President Hadi had only agreed to consider ending Shaye's detention.

Shaye's investigative work drew international attention in 2009 when he reported that the United States had conducted an airstrike that killed 41 civilians in the Yemeni village of al-Majalla, and managed to interview New Mexico-born AQAP cleric Anwar al-Awlaki on multiple occasions.

In July 2010, the Yemeni government arrested and beat Shaye, and interrogators told him, "We will destroy your life if you keep on talking," according to Scahill's account. Shaye was arrested a month later, beaten again, held in solitary confinement for 34 days without access to a lawyer, and then rushed through a trial on charges that included recruiting and propagandizing for AQAP and encouraging the assassination of President Saleh and his son. By the time Obama intervened in Shaye's pardon in 2011, protesters had begun filling city streets calling for the end of Saleh's three-decade presidency; Saleh resigned in November 2011, and since then his vice president, Hadi, has governed as part of what is slated to be a two-year period of reform and transition.

The U.S. government's case against Shaye is unclear. U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Gerald Feierstein told Craig in February 2012 that "Shaye is in jail because he was facilitating al Qaeda and its planning for attacks on Americans," but did not elaborate. Before Shaye's arrest, an U.S. intelligence official, who told Scahill that he "was persuaded that [Shaye] was an agent," discouraged journalists from working with Shaye on account of "'classified evidence' indicat[ing] that Shaye was 'cooperating' with al Qaeda."

Since his imprisonment, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Federation of Journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the Yemen-based Freedom Foundation have campaigned for Shaye's release, and last November Yemeni Justice Minister Murshid al-Arashani publicly demanded that Hadi issue a pardon. Though it appears the Yemeni president may be preparing to meet that request, Shaye's family remains doubtful. "It's like the same as previous promises," Shaye's brother Khaled told Craig. "So far this is the fourth time Hadi has made this promise."

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Presidential promise - Abdulelah Haider Shaye to be pardoned
Yemen Post, Friday, 10, May, 2013

A prominent Yemeni journalist, Abdulelah Haider Shaye rose to fame when he successfully managed to win the trust of well-known al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen, such as late American-born cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki and other leading figure of the terror group to shed some lights on their operations and enable the public to better understand the ins and outs of the war on terror in the region.

First commissioned by the former President Ali Abdullah Saleh to report on all things al-Qaeda, Shaye began to unveil what many came to call the Yemeni-American covert war in Yemen, exposing American-led strikes in Yemen to the greater public.

In 2009 he reported that the Majalah bombing, which had officially been claimed by the Yemeni government as
After the al-Majalah bombing, he reported that the site of the bombing was littered with remnants of U.S. Tomahawk missile and cluster munitions, contradicting claims by the government of Yemen that the bombing was its own. While the Pentagon was quick to deny Shaye's conclusions a subsequent report from Amnesty International and the release of secret data from Wikileaks corroborated his findings.

Shaye was arrested by the Yemeni government and imprisoned on charges of conspiracy against the state and links to al-Qaeda in July 2010. He allegedly was planning to assassinate then-President Saleh and his son, then-Commander in Chief of the Republican Guards, Gen. Ahmed Ali Saleh.

Following 34 days in solitary confinement, Shaye was rushed through a quickie trial, prompting outrage throughout the nation.
A presidential pardon in 2011 was retracted after American President Barack Obama intervened, asking then-President Saleh to retain Shaye under custody for fears his release would put American interests at risk.

Needless to say that rights activists and the media have tirelessly been campaigning for his release, calling on President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi to right the wrongs of the former regime. Prominent rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Federation of Journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the Yemen-based Freedom Foundation have tries to negotiate a deal with the government, one which would provision for a presidential pardon.
While many officials have often admitted that Shaye was no more than an innocent victim of circumstances, a pawn in a game of politics, the U.S continues to claim the journalist acted as an informant for al-Qaeda. U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Gerald Feierstein told Iona Craig in February 2012 (a reporter for the Times of London)that "Shaye is in jail because he was facilitating al Qaeda and its planning for attacks on Americans."

Two years after his conviction, President Hadi signaled on Wednesday to the press he was ready to free the journalist, and let by gones be by gones.

Al Jazeera bureau chief Saeed Thabit Saeed, who attended the meeting, wrote on Facebook, "We received a serious promise from President Hadi that our colleague Abdulelah Shaye will be released."

However, Shaye's close family members remain doubtful, saying that similar promises had only led to sour disappointment. Shaye's brother Khaled told the Times, "so far this is the fourth time Hadi has made this promise."
Yemen Post Staff

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Jeremy Scahill is an avid supporter of Shaye and has covered his situation in his recently released book Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield.

Jeremy Scahill on Yemeni Bombing and suppression of Abdulelah Haider Shaye
Published on May 9, 2013





Scahill's Twitter response, on 7 May, 2013, to news of the possible pardon, was cautious.
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