Yemen: prominent writer release after quashing his death sentence

*Update #1 to RAN 08/17*

*Available also in Arabic*

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16 September 2017 – PEN International welcomes news of the release of prominent Yemeni journalist and writer Mohammad *Yahya al-Jubaihi*, who was recently pardoned by the Supreme Political Council in Sana’a. According to the pardon decision, the death sentence issued by the court in Sana’a on 12 April 2017 against the writer was abolished and his release was ordered. On 24 September 2017, al-Jubaihi was released after being detained by Houthi forces for almost one year.

PEN International has been calling for Yahya al-Jubaihi’s death sentence to be quashed and for his release. We continue to call for the release of all writers and journalists who are unfairly imprisoned in Yemen, in violation of their right to freedom of expression and opinion.

Yahya al-Jubaihi, 61 years-old, is a writer and journalist. He is member of the Arab Journalists’ Association and Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate. He published research studies and articles and wrote regular columns in many Yemeni and other Arabic newspapers such as /Okaz /and /al-Madina/. Of particular note is an article published in December 2015 in which he sharply criticized the Houthi raids and invasions of some regions in Yemen. According to news reports, the article led to his arrest and conviction. Al-Jubaihi studied media at King Saud University in Saudi Arabia and obtained a Master’s degree in International Media in 1986 from the US Indiana University. He worked as media director at the Council of Ministers in Yemen between 1987 and 1997 and lectured “media and development” at the University of Sana’a/Faculty of media.

On 6 September 2016, Al-Jubaihi was arrested by Houthi uniformed security agents in front of his house in Yemeni capital Sana’a; they also broke into his home and confiscated his electronic devices, books and other documents. According to his family, Al-Jubaihi was transferred to several prisons and detentions centres before being sentenced to death on 12 April 2017 by a Houthi rebel court in Sana’a. According to news report, the verdict was issued without respect for the principles of fair trial, his lawyers were not allowed to meet Al-Jubaihi or to attend the hearing and the judgment was handed down in only one hearing. Al-Jubaihi was found guilty of spying for a foreign country (Saudi Arabia) and helping the rival President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi who resigned in January 2015 after pressure from Houthis. Before being arrested in September 2016, Al-Jubaihi had received anonymous threats and was asked to write an article supporting Houthi presence in Sana’a, which he refused. During his detention, Al-Jubaihi was denied access to medical care despite being in poor health.

The situation for freedom of expression and opinion in Yemen has declined sharply since 2014, following the Houthis’ invasion of Sana’a. Many journalists have been forced to flee the country. The Committee to Protect Journalists considered Yemen to be the third most dangerous place in the world for journalists in 2016.

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