Obama and the case of a Yemeni journalist
The news that the Obama administration has been monitoring journalists from The Associated Press (AP) and Fox News has been greeted with consternation by the US media and civil liberties groups.
But the plight of another journalist who received the personal attention of President Obama has received little coverage.
Abdulelah Haider Shaye was initially imprisoned in 2010 after his reporting showed that the US had conducted a missile strike in the village of Al Majala that killed fourteen women and twenty-one children. The Yemeni government had claimed the responsibility for the attack.
Shaye’s jailing led to an outcry in Yemen and it was reported that the country’s president was considering his release. But following a personal phone call from President Obama, no pardon was issued.
The US has yet to provide any evidence that Shaye was connected to al-Qaeda.
Jeremy Scahill, national security correspondent for The Nation magazine, who has done an investigation into Shaye’s case, explains that, “his association with al-Qaeda consists of having interviewed members of al-Qaeda. And I think that if people took a close look at the work of this journalist over many years … this was a guy who was asking very tough questions …. I’d say his real crime was doing real journalism …”
Abdulelah Haider Shaye wrote a letter from prison last week making clear who he blames for his detention.
“It’s inaccurate to say the Americans imprisoned me because some of them defended and supported me and opposed my detention. Actually, the only person responsible for kidnapping and detaining me is Obama. So, I don’t want the media to say America or Americans have incarcerated me because it’s obvious [who is responsible].”
And during his trial, Shaye condemned the strikes on civilians whose aftermath he had witnessed first hand:
“When they hid murderers of children and women in Abyan, when I revealed the locations and camps of nomads and civilians in Abyan, Shabwa and Arhab when they were going to be hit by cruise missiles, it was on that day that they decided to arrest me. You notice in the court how … all of my journalistic contributions and quotations to international reporters and news channels have been turned into accusations. Yemen, this is the place where, when a young journalist becomes successful, he is viewed with suspicion.”
So, why did Obama personally intervene to ensure the Yemeni journalist’s incarceration?