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Yemen: Fears for safety of imprisoned newspaper editor and his two sons

Amnesty International has expressed serious concern for the fate of a Yemeni newspaper editor and his two sons following their recent detention in the Gulf state.

Hisham Bashraheel, the 66-year-old editor-in-chief of a Yemeni daily newspaper al-Ayyam, was arrested with his son Hani on 6 January. The two men had been taking part in a sit-in protest at the newspaper's offices in Aden to mark eighth months since the authorities banned al-Ayyam and several other newspapers.

It has now come to light that Muhammad Bashraheel, a second son of the newspaper editor, was also arrested on 5 January. All three are now being held at Aden’s Criminal Investigation Department and although they were allowed to see their families and lawyers yesterday (12 January) it is unclear whether the three will be allowed regular contact with them.

Amnesty is concerned that Hisham, Hani and Muhammad Bashraheel and others who may be detained in connection with the al-Ayyam’s office protests are at risk of torture. The Yemeni authorities have a record of persecuting journalists and Amnesty believes that the three men may be prisoners of conscience, held solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“Yemen already has a dreadful record of persecuting independently-minded journalists and the detention of Hisham Bashraheel and his two sons is extremely worrying.

“We need to see evidence of proper grounds for holding these men - failing that they should be released immediately.”

The authorities began a concerted crackdown on al-Ayyam on 30 April last year, when security officials confiscated every copy of the newspaper from news stands in the capital Sana’a and other cities. This was repeated on 4 May - with similar action taken against six other newspapers. Al-Ayyam’s offices were then blockaded by the security forces to prevent copies of the newspaper from being distributed, and members of the security forces have remained stationed outside the building up to 6 January.

Meanwhile, in May last year the Yemeni government announced they would ban all newspapers they deem to have been supportive of the secession movement in the south of the country. Nevertheless, al-Ayyam succeeded in publishing some news on its website during the remainder of 2009.

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