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Yemen: Charges and travel ban against human rights defender and journalist Abdul-Karim al-Khaiwani
Front Line is deeply concerned following reports that human rights defender and journalist Abdul-Karim al-Khaiwani is facing charges of having terrorism ties and that his trial due to take place on 21 May has been postponed. Abdul-Karim al-Khaiwani is former Editor-in-Chief of the pro-democracy online newspaper Al-Shoura, and a campaigner for the right to freedom of expression in Yemen. He has been nominated for the 2008 Amnesty International UK's special award for human rights journalist under threat but might not be able to attend the Award Ceremony on 8 July 2008 due to a travel ban imposed upon him by the Yemeni authorities.
Posted 26/05/2008 On 21 May 2008, Abdul-Karim al-Khaiwani was due to stand trial on charges of insulting the president and “demoralising the military” as well as links with an al-Houthi terrorist cell. The trial has now been postponed. The charges brought against Abdul-Karim al-Khaiwani since June 2007 are based on articles written about the Sa'ada war in Yemen. He is at risk of being sentenced to long-term imprisonment or even death.
The newspaper for which Abdul-Karim al-Khaiwani works has been closed and his website has been blocked. His family have also been subject to physical abuse and threats. In 2004, he was sentenced to one year's imprisonment for supporting Hussain Badr al-Din al-Huthi, a cleric from the Zaidi community. On 20 June 2007, he was arrested at his home under the charge of having ties with an al-Houthi terrorist cell. According to reports, these accusations were fabricated. Abdul-Karim al-Khaiwani had previously reported on human rights violations against the Zaidi community and those suspected of having links to al-Houthi. Abdul-Karim al-Khaiwani was released on 24 July due to bad health but the charges against him were still pending. On 27 August 2007 Abdul-Karim al-Khaiwani was abducted and tortured by a gang of armed men. His family have also been subject to physical abuse and threats.
Front Line believes that Abdul-Karim al-Khaiwani has been targeted as a result of his legitimate work in defence of human rights, in particular his work to promote democracy and the right to freedom of expression in Yemen. Front Line is concerned that these charges and the travel ban that has been imposed against Abdul-Karim al-Khaiwani form part of an ongoing trend of harassment against human rights defenders in Yemen. Front Line is concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Abdil-Karim al-Khaiwani as well as that of his family.