A journalist is arrested, convicted by a kangaroo court, and imprisoned because he reports stories embarrassing to the government under which he lives. After a great public outcry, the President of the country is preparing to pardon him when he receives a telephone call from the leader of a foreign country. That leader, also shamed by the journalist’s reporting, asks him to keep the man behind bars. The President complies; and an innocent man remains incarcerated for the crime of telling the truth.
According to a detailed article by Jeremy Scahill in the Nation, that is precisely what happened in Yemen on February 2, 2011. The innocent journalist is Abdulelah Haider Shaye; the President of Yemen at the time was Ali Abdullah Saleh; and the foreign leader who convinced Saleh not to pardon Shaye is none other than Barack Obama, President of the United States.
Shaye, 35, is a highly respected investigative journalist of the type that is always in short supply: one who takes the time to get the facts for himself and to report them, letting the chips fall where they may. He is not content simply to rehash government press releases; but though he has interviewed many al-Qaeda figures, he does not repeat what they say uncritically either. He abhors the criminal tactics of both terrorists and state functionaries and exposes them.
Shaye is “very open-minded and rejects extremism,” his best friend, dissident Yemeni political cartoonist Kamal Sharaf, told Scahill. “He was against violence and the killing of innocents in the name of Islam. He was also against killing innocent Muslims with pretext of fighting terrorism. In his opinion, the war on terror should have been fought culturally, not militarily. He believes using violence will create more violence and encourage the spread of more extremist currents in the region.”
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Photo: AP Images