Release of award-winning Yemeni journalist welcomed

Winner of recent Amnesty media award released earlier today

Responding to news that the Yemeni journalist Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani has been released from prison earlier this afternoon, Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“This is very welcome news. No journalist should be imprisoned simply for doing their job.

“We were dismayed at his imprisonment earlier this year and indeed the award we gave to Abdulkarim in June was made even as he languished behind bars in Yemen.

“The important thing now is that Abdulkarim is allowed to go back to his journalistic work without further intimidation or harassment of any kind.”

The National Union of Journalists has also supported the campaign for Mr Al-Khaiwani. NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear said:

“It is sad to say that the imprisonment of journalists is a tried and tested tool used by those opposed to free speech and democratic accountability. It is excellent news that Abdulkarim has been freed but the government shouldn’t have imprisoned a journalist for doing his job in the first place.”

Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani, 42, the former editor of Yemen’s political weekly newspaper Al-Shora, was jailed for six years on 9 June after standing trial with 13 other defendants.

His conviction appeared to have been as a result of his professional work as a journalist, including his coverage of armed clashes between government forces and supporters of the late Zaidi Shi’a cleric Hussein Badr al-Din al-Huthi in the northern Yemeni province of Sa’da. Some of the case’s defendants were charged with violent activities and one was believed to have been sentenced to death.

Responding to the June jailing, Amnesty said he should “never have been on trial in the first place” and that “his imprisonment looks like a clear case of the authorities putting an independently-minded journalist behind bars for his criticism of government policies.”

Mr Al-Khaiwani himself spoke to Amnesty soon after his release today. He thanked the organisation for its support, adding that his release “would not have been possible without Amnesty International’s solidarity". He also confirmed that there were no conditions attached to his release.

At its annual Media Awards on 17 June, Al-Khaiwani was presented - in absentia - with a “Special Award For Human Rights Journalism Under Threat”, the award being made by BBC journalist Alan Johnston. In making the award Mr Johnston said of Al-Khaiwani: “This is a man who has already endured the horrors of prison because of the stand that he’s taken. Despite that, he is determined to continue his work and has of course just been jailed again. That is an act of courage, and it is right that he is being honoured.”

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