Jailed Yemeni journalist Abdul-Elah Haidar Shaye was granted a pardon by President Ali Abdullah Saleh even before the recent anti-government demonstrations broke out in Yemen last week, but he had not yet been released. As part of concessions President Saleh made to the protestors was included the agreement to finally release Haidar Shaye. However this eventuality never transpired due to intervention from President of the United States, Barack Obama.
According to reports Obama called President Saleh on February 2nd to congratulate him on his new political reforms, but voiced concern over the proposal to release Shaye. Last August Shaye was arrested at home during the night and held for over a month without contact with his family or a lawyer. His trial began in October when he was charged with and found guilty to “participating in an armed gang, having links with Al-Qaeda and for taking photographs of Yemen security bases and foreign embassies to be targeted by the terrorist organization.”
He was sentenced to five years in prison and became known in Yemen as “the media man” for Al-Qaeda. Shaye’s lawyers assert that the charges were fabricated not only because he reported on Al-Qaeda but also because he has accused the Yemeni and US governments of covering up the true perpetrators of a December 2009 bombing in the southern province of Abyan in which 55 people, 21 of whom were children, were killed. An additional 14 Al-Qaeda operatives were also killed in the incident. Shaye reported that the US was responsible for the incident; information which he bases on documents which were leaked which include a recording of a meeting between the head of the US central command General David Petraeus, and President Saleh, in which Saleh is quoted as saying, “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.”