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More Cartoon Update: Al-Asadi Trial Postponed Again.

by Norwegian Chef Thu May 4th, 2006 at 07:19:50 AM EST

Despite the fact that yesterday, the 3 newspapers in the "Yemeni Cartoon Saga", had their suspensions revoked and were allowed to start publishing again, today's news for the editors' trials was not so encouraging.

In another convoluted twist, the trial of Mohammed Al-Asadi, the Yemen Observer's editor, was again postponed yesterday until May 24th, the 5th time the trial has been postponed.

Also the the editors of the two other newspapers have had their trials likewise postponed.  Akram Sabra and Yehia Al-Abed, editors of Al-Hurriya Newspaper have had their trial postponed until 17 May 2006.

Kamal Al-Alafy, editor in chief of Al-Ray Al-A'am has had his trial posponed until 13th May 2006.

Al-Asadi, Sabra and Al-Abed remain in detention in "journalism prison" while Al-Alafy remains in hiding.

However, all 3 newspapers celebrated May 3, UN World Press Freedom Day, by publishing hard copies of their newspapers for the first time since February when they were suspended.

The complete story can be read below.  In reading between the lines, one gets the opinion that the Court will eventually clear the editors or fine them very lightly.  However, by keeping the editors in detention, so long, the conservative prosecution is allowed to claim some sort of victory through the long detention of the editors.

From Yemen Observer

Observer Back in Business, But Trial Continues
By Observer staff
May 4, 2006 -
SANA'A - The Yemen Observer is back in business and is allowed to print again, following the overturning of a suspension order on its operating license by Prime Minister Abdul-Qader Bajammal on Tuesday.
Just one day before the world celebration of the May 3 UN World Press Freedom Day, the Yemeni government decided the newspaper can resume printing.
However the celebrations were muted with the continuation of the trial on Wednesday of Mohammed Al-Asadi, the Observer's editor.
The trial, in the South West Court in Sana'a was adjourned for three more weeks until May 24, the fifth time it has been adjourned.
Al-Asadi is accused in connection with allegations of republishing insulting cartoons first printed in Denmark of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). The editor, who denies all charges, is charged under a press law that bans publication of anything that "prejudices the Islamic faith".
The newspaper published two thumbnail images of the cartoons in the February 4 edition, which were obscured with a thick black cross.
Two other newspapers who also had their licenses suspended for charges connected to republishing the Danish cartoons, Al-Rai Al-A'am and Al-Hurriyah, were also given the go-ahead to continue to print.
The move follows a series of demands and appeals by the Yemen Journalists Syndicate (YJS). Bajammal has instructed the Ministry of Information to return the revoked licenses of the three newspapers after a meeting with members of the YJS.
The Ministry of Information revoked the license of Al-Hurriyah on February 4, shortly followed by the Observer's and Al-Rai Al-A'am's on February 8.
For the past three months, Observer journalists have been able to only print articles on its website.
"It was a fruitful meeting with the Prime Minister," Saeed Thabet, Acting Chairman of the YJS told the Observer.  
"We have been demanding the release of the licenses of the newspapers for past three months. The response of the government came late but was encouraging."
Faris Sanabani, the publisher, welcomed the Prime Minister's decision. "It is time for the Yemeni government to move the responsibility of press freedom to the journalists themselves, who should play a vital role in transparency, fighting corruption and development," he said.
Staff at the Yemen Observer welcomed the news too. "It was a good decision by the government, even if it was perhaps a late one," said Mohammed Al-Asadi, Editor-in-Chief of the Yemen Observer. "We hope that the charges will also be dropped."
The trials of those accused in connection with the reprinting of the cartoons continues.
Hafez Al-Bukari, Secretary General of the YJS expressed his satisfaction of the meeting with the Prime Minister.
 The discussion also includes various issues concerning press freedom, the draft press law and access to information, in addition the administrative arrangement of the general assembly meeting of the YJS to elect a new chairman.
"I was impressed with the meeting," Al-Bukari said. "We wish that all the promises made by the Prime Minister will be fulfilled, including the establishment of an Information Center in the cabinet to supply journalists with necessary information and statistics."
Kamal Al-Olufi, Editror-in-Chief of Al-Rai Al-A'am, told the Observer: "It is a moment to rejoice in for all of us at the three newspapers. I think the collective efforts of everybody in the syndicate, government figures, opposition and activists in and outside the country are behind the reclaiming of our newspapers' licenses."
The three newspapers decided to print on Wednesday, May 3, to celebrate the UN World Press Freedom Day.
Hamdi Al-Bukari, member of the YJS council, told the Observer that the nightmare lived by the three newspapers should be "over forever".
However, the day was marred by the continuation of the trial against Al-Asadi, and prosecution lawyers continued to call for the editor to face criminal charges.
He faced charges from not only the state's Attorney General, but also from a group of lawyers believed to be commissioned by Sheikh Abdul-Majid Al-Zindani. In addition, a third new group appeared on Wednesday, pressing similar charges against him.
In the past they have variously called for Al-Asadi to be executed, to be banned from practicing journalism forever - as well as for the newspaper's assets to be seized and for the Observer to be closed permanently.
However, the tightly packed courtroom quickly degenerated into shouts and angry accusations, with Judge Mohammed Sahl forced to repeatedly bang his gavel to call for order.
Heated arguments broke out between the prosecution lawyers, some of whom accused Al-Asadi's defense lawyer Khalid Al-Ansi, from the National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms (HOOD), of acting as an "American office" or an "agent" for the US.
Some lawyers claimed Al-Ansi, who has also defended several Yemeni Guantanamo Bay detainees, of receiving money from the USA, Danish groups and international organizations. He denied the allegations.
The allegations followed a request by Al-Ansi concerning reports that the prosecution lawyers were funded by YR5 million rials collected in mosques. Al-Ansi asked that details of any funding be put before the court.
Judge Mohammed Sahl repeatedly called for the prosecution teams to organize themselves better.
Al-Ansi argued that if the prosecution insisted on basing their charges solely on the act of reprinting the cartoons, them they must also include the accompany newspaper article in the evidence, which he said clearly showed that the Observer condemned the images.``

Copyright (c) 2004 - 2005
Yemen Observer Newspaper

From IFEX  Written in late April before the events of the last few days, but additional useful background information on other editors.

(HRinfo/IFEX) - The following is a 27 April 2006 HRinfo press release:

Yemen: Yemeni Independent Newspaper Continue to be stopped
Postponement of the trials to next May

27 April 2006 - A Yemeni court decided yesterday to postpone the trial session of Akram Sabra and Yehia Al-Abed, editors of Al-Hurriya Newspaper who are being charged for publishing cartoons offensive to the Prophet Mohammed, to a session on 17 May, while freezing the license to print the three newspapers that printed the cartoons.

The Yemeni Ministry of Information had filed a complaint against the three newspapers: Yemen Observer, Al-Hurriya, and Al-Ray Al-A'am, and stopped their license for printing since last February. This was because the three newspapers published cartoons offending the Prophet Mohammed. The cartoons, which were covered, were published in these newspapers within the context of condemning their print in European countries. Following the report, a press campaign held by government controlled newspapers in Yemen started against these three newspapers. In addition, religious men attacked the newspapers in mosques.

Among the observers of the trial against the Yemen Observer was Gamal Eid, Executive Director of the Cairo based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRinfo). The session was postponed to next 3 May, a date that marks World Press Freedom Day. Eid met with Editors of the three newspapers and members of the Yemeni Press Syndicate board, who confirmed the illegality of freezing the license to print these three newspapers.

Mohammed Al-Asadi, editor in Chief of Yemen Observer, Akram Sabra and Yehia Al-Abed, editors of Al-Hurriya Newspaper, were arrested early last February for printing the cartoons. Later, a warrant to arrest Kamal Al-Alafy, editor in chief of Al-Ray Al-A'am, who is currently in hiding, was issued. Trials commenced on 22 February.

The three independent newspapers were confronted by a defamatory campaign led by government controlled media. In addition, they were confronted by a campaign announcing their apostasy that was led by religious men. Religious men collected financial donations that totalled 5 million Yemeni Riyals (US$25,500) to sue the newspapers, according to an Islamic principle (Al-Hesba Al-Islami). This raises concern as the prosecutor allowed the intervention of several lawyers against these three newspapers.

Circumstances surrounding the trial included several violations:

  1. The detention of editors of the three newspapers in violation of the Yemeni publishing law that bans the detention in cases related to press and publishing.

  2. The place and conditions of detention of Mohammed Al-Asady, Akram Sabra, and Yehia Al-Abed are not up to international standards. The detainees were kept in a cell underground. The cell lacked sufficient air ventilation and had one small window that looked into the rest of the floor. They were detained with dangerous criminals. They had no mattresses or blankets. Sunlight did not enter at all. They were deprived of food and water unless they paid for it.

  3. Government controlled newspapers defamed the three newspapers and accused them of offending the prophet, accusing them of apostasy. This endangered the lives of the detainees. Mohammed Al-Asadi found out about the freezing of his newspaper's license from the media and messages sent to his mobile phone by the Saba news agency.

  4. Sheikh Abdel Maguid Al-Zenady committed provocations against the three newspapers in mosques, to the extent that he collected money to pay for lawyers to intervene for the interest of the case against the three newspapers.

  5. The court and public prosecutor allowed the intervention of lawyers as adversaries against the Yemen Observer and Mohammed Al-Asadi on the basis of the Islamic principle, Al-Hesba Al-Islami, despite the fact that this principle is not legally recognised. The prosecutor is the only authorised body that can file cases.

It is worth mentioning that the trials of the three newspapers have been postponed as follows:
"Yemen Observer": 3 May 2006
"Al-Hurriya": 17 May 2006
"Al-Ray Al-A'am": 13 May 2006

Papers published...good but publisher in hiding...not so good.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Fri May 5th, 2006 at 08:31:13 AM EST

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