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Cartoon Update: Yemeni Editor Faces Death Penalty/ You Can Help

by Norwegian Chef Thu Mar 9th, 2006 at 06:50:42 AM EST

The trials of various editors who published various cartoons in predominately Muslim countries took a dramatic turn today when the prosecution lawyers called for the death penalty for Mohammed Al-Asadi, the Editor-in-Chief of the Yemen Observer.  The Yemen Observer is a prominet English Language newspaper.   (See more deatils below)

Meanwhile the publication of the cartoons which continued through February has largely ceased in most places. The Wikipedia article continues to be a good source of information as various elements of the story continue to unfold.

Lawyers Demand Capital Penalty for Al-Asadi

By Observer staff--Mar 8, 2006

Defence Lawyer, Khaled Al-Anisi requests from the judge to examine the file introduced by the prosecution team. Mohammed Al-Asadi, editor-in-chief of the Yemen Observer is guarded by a policeman. YO Photo/MAS

SANA'A - Up to 21 prosecution lawyers called for the death penalty for Mohammed Al-Asadi, the Editor-in-Chief of the Yemen Observer, and the permanent closure of the newspaper, during Al-Asadi's trial on Wednesday.

The lawyers, commissioned by Sheik Abdul-Majid Zindani, the Chairman of Islah Shura Council and led by Mohammed Al-Shawish, also called for the confiscation of all the newspaper's property and assets, and for financial compensation to be paid to be the Muslim's `Finance House', which last existed during the time of the Caliphs, 1200 years ago.

They recounted a story in which a lady was killed during the Prophet's lifetime after she insulted him, and that the Prophet then praised the killer. They said that they wanted the same punishment to be applied on "those who abuse the Prophet" (PBUH).

The trial of Al-Asadi, which took place in the General South-West Court in Sana'a, was adjourned for two weeks, until March 22.

Al-Asadi, who denies all charges, is accused in connection with allegations of republishing insulting cartoons first printed in Denmark of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). The newspaper published thumbnail images of the cartoons in the February 4 edition, which were obscured with a thick black cross.

Twelve of the prosecution lawyers turned up to the trial, crowding and jostling each other in the busy court room. Several times the lawyers disagreed among themselves, and the judge ordered them to organize their team better.

They also demanded personal financial compensation for the psychological trauma they claimed they suffered by the actions of the newspaper, which they said has impaired their ability to do their jobs and follow their normal daily lives.

The lawyers demanded Al-Asadi to be punished according to criminal law. The editor faces a potentially heavy prison sentence if convicted.

They also asked the judge that the Yemen Observer should be even made to pay the costs of advertising any sentence made against it by the court.

The defense team, Mohammed Naji Alaw and Khalid Al-Ansi, from the human rights HOOD Organization, criticized the prosecution team's actions.

They said the prosecution lawyers failed to say exactly who they represented and who is funding them. Alaw challenged the prosecution's demands for compensation.

"These people are demanding money from the Yemen Observer," Alaw said. "How much money do they want? Can you put a price on the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH)? You cannot. Our Prophet is greater than all the money in the world."

The defense team read out an Arabic translation of the two articles that accompanied the crossed out images of the cartoons.

They said that the articles made it clear that the newspaper had condemned the cartoons, had defended Islam and the Prophet (PBUH), and had reported the different reactions from all across the Arab and Islamic world.

They demanded that the translations be included in the file case.

However, both Attorney General and the prosecution team both claimed that the charges rested on the pictures alone, and that the accompanying articles were therefore not part of the case.

Al-Asadi, who has already spent 12 days in prison but was released on bail two weeks ago, said: "I am disappointed at the length of time that this ordeal is taking, and at the way the accusations are made.

"I was surprised at what they asked for, and the damage to the newspaper they want. They want the assets of the newspaper - its computers, equipment and its buildings, as well its money to be confiscated."

The prosecution lawyers claimed that Al-Asadi and the Yemen Observer should thank them for seeking to solve the issue through the court, and avoid potentially violent reactions from people on the street. However, the defense team said they regarded such comments as a veiled threat of violence.

Judge Sahl Mohammed Hamza said there were many things missing from the prosecution team's argument, and told them to complete their file. He was forced to bang his gavel several times to keep order in packed court room, telling one prosecution lawyers to speak on all of the group's behalf. He adjourned the court until March 22.

It is the second time that the trial has been adjourned. The newspaper's license to print hardcopies of the paper remains suspended.

Three representatives of the international human rights watchdog Amnesty International also attended the trial.

Copyright (c) 2004 - 2005

Yemen Observer Newspaper

Here is some more information about the Yemen Observer.

Who We Are

Yemen Observer is an independent English newspaper in the Republic of Yemen. The weekly hard copy of the Observer appears every Saturday. We have daily updates called The Daily Chew. The Observer was founded by Faris Abdullah Sanabani in 1996, and the first issue was published on October 26 of the same year.

We cover current events, politics, culture and society in Yemen. Yemen Observer is currently considered one of the few leading media institutions in Yemen. Yemen Observer Publishing House has released two weekly newspapers, one of them is Sports in Arabic. It has also published several high quality hard cover books. The latest was Arabia Felix, a premier quarterly magazine in Yemen.

Since foundation, the newspaper established itself as the primary resource for news and information on Yemen among the international public. The residing and visiting international community turns to the Yemen Observer to stay informed on the local news Yemenis and other nationals around the world log on to the web site to stay in touch with Yemen.

Building a strong reputation in such a short time has been no small feat. Our team of professional journalists has developed a wide reach of reliable sources to bring the most newsworthy and exclusive information to its readership. Their job is not limited to running with a story, but investigating it and presenting it in an accurate and objective manner so the reader can stay better informed.

Mission Statement

Yemen Observer is the link between reader and news. it is the source of exclusive news, presenting facts objectively in a professional manner. We are working towards providing the most comprehensive and accurate information for the world.

You can help Mr Al-Asadi by joining or contributing to Amnesty International or by joining or contributing to Reporters without Borders.  Both websites should have more specific details and actions in the next few days.

I am following the other trials in Middle East and Southeast Asia and will update as news merits.

Nice to see someone keeping an eye on some of the actual heroes of this fuss.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Mar 9th, 2006 at 07:17:13 AM EST
Thanks for keeping us alert on the issue. This case is already going off any limits now.

I can resist anything but temptation.- Oscar Wilde
by Little L (ljolito (at) gmail (dot) com) on Thu Mar 9th, 2006 at 04:40:07 PM EST

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