Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Men abduct Yemen leader on plane

August 15, 2012
Gunmen have stormed a passenger plane after it landed in south Yemen, grabbed an opposition leader from his seat and spirited him away to an unknown destination, an official says.
Wednesday's kidnapping took place at the international airport in the port city of Aden.
Masked gunmen burst into the airport building first, meeting no resistance from airport security. They then ran onto the runway and boarded the plane.
The official said the motive for the abduction of retired Major General Ahmed Abdullah al-Hassani, a former Yemeni navy commander, was unclear.
Al-Hassani was a staunch opponent of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. After retiring, he became a prominent campaigner for the south's secession.

Yemen: Two years on, journalist still behind bars after alleging US cluster bomb use

August 15, 2012
The Yemeni authorities must set aside the conviction of a journalist imprisoned after he alleged US involvement in fatal air strikes in the country – including the use of cluster bombs – and release him, Amnesty International said today.
Thursday marks two years since Abdul Ilah Haydar Shayi’, an investigative journalist specializing in counter-terrorism affairs, was arrested at his home in the Yemeni capital Sana’a, on charges of links to al-Qa’ida. He has been behind bars ever since.
On 18 January 2011, he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. On 1 February 2011, former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh issued an order to free him, but it was not carried out after US President Barack Obama expressed concern over the journalist’s release.
Abdul Ilah Haydar Shayi’s lawyers and Yemeni activists say the charges against him were fabricated as a result of his investigative journalism.
 “Ever since his arrest and trial, there are strong indications that Abdul Ilah Haydar Shayi’ was targeted for revealing evidence of the US role in a cluster bomb attack that killed dozens of residents,” said Hassiba Hadj-Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.
 “Two years on, he remains behind bars. The charges on which he was convicted appear to be based on what he has done as part of his legitimate activities as a journalist. As such his conviction must be set aside and he should be released.”
In January 2011, Abdul Ilah Haydar Shayi’ was convicted by the Specialized Criminal Court on several charges including communicating with “wanted men”, joining a military group and acting as a media consultant to al-Qa’ida. After serving his five-year jail term, he will be banned from travel for a further two years.
The charge of communicating with “wanted men” appears to have been connected to his work as an investigative journalist. Shayi’ himself does not deny having had contact with members of al-Qa’ida but said that this was in relation to his journalism. His lawyers say the prosecution submitted no convincing evidence that their client had worked with or supported al-Qa’ida.
Amnesty International has not seen anything that would substantiate any of the charges against him.
Abdul Ilah Haydar Shayi’ and his lawyers have refused to appeal his conviction, citing concerns about the legitimacy of the court and the fairness of his trial.
From the time of his arrest until 11 September 2010, Abdul Ilah Haydar Shayi’ was held incommunicado and he told his lawyers and others who were present at one of the court sessions that he was beaten during that time, leading to chest injuries, bruising on his body and a broken tooth.
Given the lack of convincing evidence to support the charges, the allegations of torture and other ill-treatment and Amnesty International’s concerns about the fairness of trials before the Specialized Criminal Court and it’s lack of independence, Amnesty International considers that his detention is arbitrary and that the conviction should be set aside and he should be released.
If the authorities have evidence against him, they should charge him with a recognizably criminal offence, and bring him to trial in proceedings which conform to international fair trial standards.
Abdul Ilah Haydar Shayi’ was the first Yemeni journalist to allege US involvement in a December 2009 missile attack on the community of al-Ma’jalah, the site of what the government claimed to be an al-Qa’ida training camp in southern Yemen’s Abyan area.
Shortly after the attack – which killed 41 local residents, including 21 children and 14 women – he wrote articles and spoke to news channel Al Jazeera and newspapers. In addition 14 alleged al-Qa’ida members were also reported to have been killed in the missile attack.
Yemen's government initially said its forces had acted alone in the attack on al-Ma’jalah, but shortly afterwards US media outlets published alleged statements by anonymous US government sources claiming President Obama approved the use of US missiles being fired at two alleged al-Qa'ida sites in Yemen.
In June 2010 Amnesty International released images of a US-manufactured Tomahawk cruise missile that carried cluster sub-munitions, apparently taken near al-Ma’jalah after the December 2009 airstrike. The organization further claimed that such missiles were only known to be held by the US forces at that time and that Yemeni armed forces were unlikely to be capable of using such a missile.
This finding was later corroborated when WikiLeaks released a US diplomatic cable confirming that US forces had carried out the attack.
The Pentagon has not responded to a request from Amnesty International for information about US forces’ involvement in the attack.
 “The Yemeni and US authorities have failed to account for the attacks that killed dozens of Yemeni residents, and a journalist who revealed information about the US involvement has been behind bars for two years,” said Hadj-Sahraoui.
Cluster munitions – also known as cluster bombs – have indiscriminate effects and unexploded bomblets threaten lives and livelihoods for years after their use.
A global treaty banning the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster bombs entered into force on 1 August 2010 and has 75 states parties to date. Neither Yemen nor the USA has joined the treaty.

U.S. confirms support for Yemeni president

Aug. 15, 2012
WASHINGTON, Aug. 15 (UPI) -- Washington is working to support the administration of the Yemeni president as he works on political transition goals, a U.S. State Department official said.
A resolution passed this year by the U.N. Security Council calls on the Yemeni government to take steps needed for general elections in 2014. Last year, former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah stepped down following lengthy demonstrations and his vice president, Abdu Rabbo Mansour Hadi, won a one-man contest to take his place in February.
Gunmen loyal to the former president attacked an administration building in Sanaa this week, leaving at least four people dead. The attack followed a decision by Hadi to reshuffle the military and reduce the number of units under the command of the former president's son.
Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the State Department, said "dead-enders from the ancient regime" were throwing up roadblocks to Hadi's reform agenda.
Washington has stood by Yemen as part of a regional effort to keep al-Qaida influence at bay. Combating militants loyal to al-Qaida is among the many factors complicating Yemeni transition.
Nuland said Washington was calling on both sides to show restraint but said respect for Hadi's reforms was a key part of U.S. policy.
"What we are doing is trying to strengthen the regime of President Hadi, trying to work with him on these transition plans that he's putting in place," she said.

Three dead in clashes over Yemen army revamp

August 14, 2012
By Mohammed Ghobari
SANAA: Three people were killed in clashes in Yemen's capital Sanaa on Tuesday when members of the elite Republican Guards clashed with regular troops in a challenge to a presidential reorganisation of the military, an army source said.
Last week, President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi transferred command of some Republican Guards units to a newly formed force called the Presidential Protective Forces, under his authority. Other units were placed under a different regional command.
Hadi aims to curb the clout of Brigadier General Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Guards commander and a son of ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh who was forced out by an uprising last year, and stabilise a country where Saleh's legacy still looms large.
"Three were killed and nine were wounded in the clash, and now the Yemeni troops have gained control of the area again," the army source said, without specifying whether the casualties were members of the security forces.
The fighting occurred near the defence ministry after extra government troops were sent to defend the building. Shooting broke out after Republican Guard soldiers surrounded the ministry in central Sanaa.
Residents said that although Yemeni troops had regained ground around the ministry, Republican Guard soldiers were still moving around in neighbouring areas.
The army source said the Guards' action was a strike at Hadi's authority and reflected continuing turmoil in Yemen, six months after Saleh stepped down to end protracted mass protests against his autocratic 33-year rule. Hadi, his deputy, replaced him under transition deal brokered by Yemen's Gulf neighbours.
Lawlessness and al Qaeda's presence in Yemen have alarmed the United States and Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter. They increasingly see Yemen as a front line in their war on jihadi militants to protect the interests of the West and its allies, including oil shipping lanes off Yemen's coast.
In an unrelated incident on Tuesday also in Sanaa, a man carrying a bomb walked into the ministry of agriculture and was killed instantly when the device went off, an army source said.
"The bomb only affected the man carrying it, no one else was killed or wounded, and it's still unclear who this man is."