Yemen's Abdulkarim Al-Khaiwani released after presidential pardon

The Yemeni journalist Abdulkarim Al-Khaiwani, whose imprisonment on terrorist charges had caused a worldwide outcry, left his prison cell on Thursday after receiving a Presidential pardon. Despite rumors to the contrary, Al-Khaiwani said he made no promises in exchange for his release.

BEIRUT, September 25, 2008 (MENASSAT) – Abdulkarim Al-Khaiwani's release comes after a presidential pardon, according to the 26th of September newspaper, which said his release was in the honor of the holy month of Ramadan. 

The penal court specialized in state security had sentenced Al-Khaiwani on June 9, 2008 to nine years in prison. At the time, Al-Khaiwani was editor-in-chief of the website. 

News about a presidential order to release Al-Khaiwani started being leaked on Tuesday. His family heard the news from journalists, without official confirmation, and awaited his release. 

In an interview with the Al-Sahwa website, Al-Khaiwani considered his release a victory for journalists and rights organizations in Yemen. 

In his first statement after his release, Al-Khaiwani thanked all those who showed solidarity among journalists, politicians, parties, and rights organizations, and said it was solidarity with freedom. 

No promises made

After news of his release was first leaked, rumors went around that the presidential pardon was conditional on Al-Khaiwani promising to renounce all "anti-government activity" and that Al-Khaiwani would probably refuse to do so.

But Al-Khaiwani said he made no promises in exchange for his release, saying that he works within the law and the constitution, "which we always strive to uphold."

He also said rights can be regained through peaceful struggle and sacrifices. 

He told the Al-Sahwa website that his sentencing had been a sham and that his release was due to a political decision. About his time in prison, he said that conditions in Yemeni prisons have deteriorated but he assured he was not badly treated in prison himself. 

Saed Thabit Saed, a representative of the Yemeni journalists' syndicate, praised the decision to release Al-Khaiwani, and said it came after efforts by the syndicate led by the head of the syndicate, Taha Mustafa, and those efforts turned out to be successful.

Saed expressed his and the rest of the journalists' happiness for Al-Khaiwani's return to his family and colleagues. He pointed out that the syndicate knew of the President's decision four days prior to Al-Khaiwani's release but preferred to remain discreet. 

Yemeni authorities had accused Al-Khaiwani of being part of a terrorist cell dubbed "the Sana'a cell," and charged him with "violence" and supporting the Houthi group, Shia rebels in the Sa'ada region in the north of the country. 

A former editor in chief of Al-Shawra and Al-Omma newspapers, Abdulkarim Al-Khaiwani was the first Yemeni journalist to appear in front of a special state security court since it was established in early 2000. The court principally looked into cases dealing with Al-Qaeda and the Houthi rebels, following the war that erupted in the north in 2004, as well as cases of fraud, kidnapping and drugs traficking. 

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If prison cells were only for thieves...
Posted on 20/08/2008 - 19:17
Last June, Yemeni journalist Abdulkarim Al-Khaiwani was sentenced to six years in prison for his alleged role in forming a terrorist cell. Rights organizations at the time called the trial a farce, and a means to silence a dissident voice. Wahib Al Nasari of the Qatari newspaper Al-Arab had this exclusive interview with Al-Khaiwani, who remains as defiant as ever. khiwani 3.jpg