Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Yemen journalist close to Awlaqi on hunger strike: RSF

February 15, 2012
SANAA: A Yemeni journalist who was close to slain US-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaqi and was jailed for five years last year for promoting Al-Qaeda is on hunger strike, Reporters Without Borders said on Wednesday.
"Abdul Ilah Haydar Shae... has been on hunger strike since 12 February. He has stopped eating and drinking in an attempt to pressure the authorities to release him," said the media rights watchdog (Reporteurs Sans Frontieres, RSF) in a statement.
Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who will officially step down on February 21, ordered the freeing of Shae a year ago.
But "he was kept in detention as a result of direct pressure from the White House that began the day after the decree, when President Obama voiced 'concern' about his possible release because of his supposedly close ties to Al-Qaeda," RSF said.
RSF urged the Yemeni authorities to free Shae and deplored the "interference" by the Unites States, which it said "does not hesitate to violate freedom of expression in order to pursue its war on terror and secure the cooperation of other countries."
On January 18, 2011 the court specialising in terrorism cases convicted Shae, 34, of "working in the media for the benefit of Al-Qaeda, taking pictures of security buildings, embassies and foreign interests in Sanaa, and inciting Al-Qaeda to attack them."
After serving his five year prison sentence, Shae, employed by the official news agency Saba and held in jail since August 16, is due to be placed under house arrest for two years.
The journalist said in July 2010 that security agents had kidnapped and beaten him.
"His health is deteriorating rapidly," RSF said on Wednesday.
A group of 146 journalists and activists also issued a statement received by AFP on Wednesday calling for Shae's release.
"We warn that this decision (to go on strike) threatens his life," it said. "We launch this campaign to call for saving his life and releasing him."
"Haydar's analyses have refuted much of the lies promoted by the media, thus embarrassing both the American and the Yemeni governments," said the statement, referring to attacks on Al-Qaeda hide-outs in Yemen.
Saleh has declared himself a US ally in its "war on terror" as his troops, backed by US drones, continue to battle the extremists in the country's southern and eastern provinces.
"Most victims of these attacks were innocent women and children who have nothing to do with Al-Qaeda. The decision came to silence (Shae) after he unveiled most of these crimes," the statement added.
"We urge all local, regional and international rights groups and political parties to take up their duty towards this case," it said.
Shae, who specialises in terrorism, is considered one of Yemen's most knowledgeable journalists on Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula -- the network's local affiliate.
He is also known for his close ties to Awlaqi, the jihadist preacher said by Washington to have been linked to a failed 2009 attack on a US-bound airliner, who was killed on September 30 in an air strike in Yemen.
Source: The Daily Star

Pakistan still holding bin Laden family months after raid

By Saeed Shah — McClatchy Newspapers

February 15, 2012

ISLAMABAD (MCT) — The family of Osama bin Laden’s youngest wife has asked the chief justice of Pakistan to order authorities to release her children and her and allow them to return to Yemen, nine months after the U.S. special forces raid that killed the al-Qaida founder.

Zakaria Ahmad al-Sadah, brother of Amal al-Sadah, bin Laden’s Yemeni wife, said in an interview that he’d appealed directly to the activist chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, as a “last resort” after spending three fruitless months in Pakistan seeking her release.

Al-Sadah said his sister’s five children were in poor mental health and had received no schooling since they were taken into custody after the raid May 2. He also said that a gunshot wound his sister had suffered in her knee during the raid hadn’t been treated properly and that she still couldn’t walk. A Navy SEAL shot her as she apparently tried to shield bin Laden.

The U.S. raiding party took bin Laden’s body from the hideout in Abbottabad but left behind Amal al-Sadah and her children, as well as two other wives and four other children, who Zakaria Ahmad al-Sadah said were bin Laden’s grandchildren.

The petition comes as Pakistan’s Supreme Court and its chief justice have inserted themselves into several controversial cases, including successfully ordering the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, the nation’s premier spy agency, to produce seven prisoners this week whom the agency had been holding secretly.

“I put between your hand the issue of Osama bin Laden’s family (children and women) who passed upon their illegal disappearance in Pakistan more than eight months with Pakistani authorities despite they are innocent, and which consider against all the human rights and justice laws in the world,” al-Sadah’s written appeal reads in broken English.

“This enforced disappearance deteriorated the children health and their psychological trauma due to their Abbottabad event,” the petition says.

Al-Sadah lodged the two-page petition with the Supreme Court last Thursday. A 24-year-old student at the University of Sanaa in Yemen’s capital, he said he’d been allowed to meet with his sister and the children about 10 times since he’d arrived in Pakistan on Nov. 1.

Al-Sadah said that his sister, her children and the other wives and children were being kept under de facto house arrest in a small Islamabad apartment that was sparsely furnished and had little or no natural light. He said Pakistani security personnel guarded the apartment. He declined to disclose its precise location.

He said the children were so traumatized that “I had to teach them how to smile.”

His sister, who’s now 31, married bin Laden in or around the year 2000. Their oldest child, Safiya, aged around 12, reportedly was cradling her wounded mother when Pakistani officials reached the compound in Abbottabad just after U.S. forces had left.

Al-Sadah identified his sister’s other children as Ibrahim, about 8; Asia, around 7; Zainab, around 5; and Hussain, around 3.

Throughout his jihadist career, bin Laden kept his family with him. The two youngest are thought to have been born in the Abbottabad house. Safiya was conceived when they lived in Afghanistan before the 9/11 attacks. It’s unclear where Ibrahim and Asia would have been conceived.

“These are innocent children, totally innocent. These are becoming psycho,” al-Sadah said. “Their psychological problems are getting worse and worse.”

“For the last nine months, they have not seen the sun. They are just being kept alive.”

The two other bin Laden wives held in the apartment are Khairiah, aged around 62, and Siham, around 54, both Saudis who’d also lived in Abbottabad with him, along with four of his grandchildren.

The U.S. raid on the bin Laden compound killed one adult son, Khalid, who was Siham’s oldest child, aged around 22. The bin Laden grandchildren are likely to be his offspring.

The official Pakistani commission that formed to investigate bin Laden’s presence in the country interviewed his wives and called last October for them to be sent back to their home countries.

Al-Sadah said he’d traveled to Pakistan in November after the authorities had assured him that he’d be able to take his sister home on Nov. 2. For the last month, he’s been stopped from seeing her children and her, he said.

“I went to the Supreme Court because I know that Iftikhar Chaudhry is a very just person. I had heard about him even in Yemen,” al-Sadah said. “I have a lot of trust in Iftikhar Chaudhry.”

The Supreme Court hasn’t commented on the petition.

Going to the court could, however, anger the officials who are holding the bin Laden family members.

Al-Sadah said the repatriation awaited only the signature of Interior Minister Rehman Malik. However, it’s likely that the ISI is holding the family members and that the decision on their release isn’t in the hands of the interior minister, who didn’t return calls seeking comment Tuesday.

There’s no evidence that any of the wives of bin Laden, who married six times and fathered at least 21 children, were involved in al-Qaida. Al-Sadah said his sister was a “housewife” who spent her married life only raising their children.

Yemeni authorities have supported the al-Sadah family in trying to get Amal al-Sadah released from Pakistan. The Saudi regime, which exercises huge influence over the Pakistani government and military, doesn’t seem keen to have the Saudi women back, however.

One killed, six hurt in Yemen car bomb attack

Explosive-laden vehicle goes off at check point on Sana'a-Mareb highway injuring policemen

By Saeed Al Batati

February 15, 2012

Sana’a: An explosive-laden car, carrying a man exploded Wednesday at a check point on the Sana’a–Mareb highway,, the official website of the country’s former ruling party, reported.

The suicide bomber was instantly killed and six policemen were injured in the attack. One of the policemen was reportedly in critical condition.

The website said that the attack bore the hallmarks of Al Qaida off-shoot in Yemen which is accused of such attacks on security officers.

Meanwhile, Yemen’s outgoing president Ali Abdullah Saleh has ordered the removal of his portraits from all government and private facilities, Saba news agency reported .

Saleh is currently is New York receiving treatment for serious injuries he sustained during an attack on his presidential compound on June 3 last year.

The government agency said that Saleh had given his orders to replace his pictures with the picture of his deputy Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is due to be officially announced as president of the troubled nation.

Smuggling And Trafficking Of Somalis Must Stop, Says Human Rights Expert

February 15, 2012

(Newsroom America) -- The smuggling and trafficking in innocent Somalis must end, an independent United Nations human rights expert said, expressing deep shock over the recent boat disaster in the Gulf of Aden that resulted in the death of 11 people, while another 34 are still missing.

Last week, survivors found on Somali beaches explained that their boat, crewed by three smugglers and carrying 58 passengers, had set sail for Yemen. They also recounted to local authorities how smugglers forced 22 passengers overboard soon after the engine failed, according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

“Smuggling and trafficking in persons in Somalia has been a sad facet of the Somali conflict,” said UN Independent Expert on the situation of Human Rights in Somalia, Shamsul Bari. “Such tragedy highlights the critical need to find a lasting and sustainable peace in Somalia so that people can live in a decent manner at home and are not forced to flee constantly their country to save their lives.”

The conditions endured by Somalis who are smuggled by boat are strenuous and painful. In his report to the Human Rights Council in 2009, Mr. Bari described that hundreds of people are squeezed into small boats that can easily capsize, and must survive a choppy ride that lasts on average 36 hours without food or water, and without very limited movement. Many times passengers develop skin diseases during the trip, and they run the risk of being thrown overboard by smugglers who fear getting caught.

“I offer my heartfelt condolences and my grievances to the deceased families and of those injured and who are suffering from skin burns caused by fuel inside the boat,” Mr. Bari said.

Mr. Bari also expressed his concern over recent reports about the violence faced by Somalis at the hands of the local population in transit countries, and urged Somali authorities at the national and sub-national level to work in close cooperation with the international community and the UN to end this issue.

In addition, he called on the international community to strengthen the capacity of the Somali authorities, and stressed that the London Conference on Somalia scheduled for 23 February would be a good opportunity for them to address smuggling and trafficking in the country.

“The upcoming London Conference will focus the world’s attention on Somalia,” Mr. Bari noted. “As we try to address the suffering of Somalis inside the country, I would like to remind all transit and host countries of their legal and humanitarian obligation to guarantee the safety and dignity of Somali refugees.”

No Questions For Yemen President In USS Cole Case

February 15, 2012

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — A military judge in the war crimes trial of a Guantanamo prisoner charged in the attack on the USS Cole has denied a defense request to question Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh as a witness in the case.

The ruling by Army Col. James Pohl is subject to a Pentagon security review and has not been released. But the military defense lawyer who submitted the motion to depose Saleh, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Reyes, said Wednesday that it had been denied.

Reyes is the Pentagon-appointed lawyer for Guantanamo prisoner Abd al-Nashiri, who is charged before a tribunal at the U.S. base in Cuba with war crimes for allegedly setting up the 2002 bombing of the USS Cole, an attack that killed 17 sailors.

Pohl issued the ruling Tuesday and did not give a rationale, stating only that he would explain his decision in a later ruling, Reyes said. Earlier, the State Department said that Saleh, who is in New York for medical treatment, could not be questioned because he has diplomatic immunity.

Reyes had argued that diplomatic immunity did not apply because he wanted to question Saleh as a defense witness, not a suspect, to collect information on the Yemeni government's investigation into the bombing of the Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden.

"We believe that Saleh's testimony is necessary for this case and that it prejudices our ability to defend our client in a capital case," Reyes said.

He said he was looking into whether he could appeal but he would have to move fast. Saleh, who has said he intends to be back in Yemen in time for Feb. 21 elections, is expected to leave the U.S. within days.

Saleh, who was president at the time of the Cole attack, arrived in the U.S. on Jan. 28 for treatment of burns suffered in an assassination attempt in June.