On Thursday's "Democracy Now," reporter Jeremy Scahill and a member of the Committee to Protect Journalists discussed the ongoing imprisonment of a Yemeni journalist, and his connection with President Obama.
Abdulelah Haider Shaye has been in prison since January of 2011. In a new article for The Nation, Scahill placed the blame for Shaye's continued imprisonment -- which has been condemned by many human rights and press freedom groups -- squarely on Obama. According to Scahill, Obama "expressed concern" about Shaye during a phone call with then-Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had signalled his intent to pardon the journalist and free him. Instead, Shaye remains behind bars, branded as an ally of al Qaeda.
One of Shaye's biggest scoops was the uncovering of a U.S. missile strike in Yemen. As Scahill wrote:
On December 17, the Yemeni government announced that it had conducted a series of strikes against an al Qaeda training camp in the village of al Majala in Yemen's southern Abyan province, killing a number of al Qaeda militants. As the story spread across the world, Shaye traveled to al Majala. What he discovered were the remnants of Tomahawk cruise missiles and cluster bombs, neither of which are in the Yemeni military's arsenal. He photographed the missile parts, some of them bearing the label "Made in the USA," and distributed the photos to international media outlets. He revealed that among the victims of the strike were women, children and the elderly. To be exact, 14 women and 21 children were killed.
Seven months later, Shaye was abducted by Yemeni intelligence agents, who warned him to stop speaking about the strike. Instead, he went on Al Jazeera to say what had happened to him. A month later, he was arrested and sent to prison in a trial that was widely seen as a sham.
"Democracy Now" showed video of Shaye speaking from a caged cell during his trial. It also showed footage that Scahill took during his reporting in Yemen.
Speaking on Thursday, Scahill said that Shaye had become known for his close access to top al Qaeda figures (which he obtained through his wife's family ties to a radical cleric) but was trusted by Western media outlets.
While some have pronounced themselves skeptical about his independence from al Qaeda, multiple human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists, have decried his imprisonment.
"Haider worked with ABC News," Scahill said. "The Washington Post paid his expenses for him to go and do an interview with Awlaki. He was identified by the New York Times as an al-Qaeda expert. And all of a sudden then, you find him becoming the target of the Saleh regime."
Mohamed Abdel Dayem, the coordinator of the Middle East and North Africa Program at the Committee to Protect Journalists, also spoke to the show on Thursday. He said that he first met Shaye in Yemen in 2010.
"Immediately I could tell that this was a very smart journalist, and a journalist who really was willing to put a lot on the line to get the tough stories," he said.
Dayem also condemned the trial that landed Shaye in prison, saying that the tribunal that convicted him was essentially a kangaroo court. "I could not find a single case that met, even remotely, fair trial standards," he said.
Scahill brought up the various organizations who have spoken in support of Shaye.
"They're on one side of it, condemning his trial as a sham, talking about who he actually was as a journalist," he said. "And on the other side of it, you have the dictatorship of Ali Abdullah Saleh, a specialized criminal tribunal set up to go after journalists, and the White House. President Obama is the single person keeping that man in prison right now."
Watch part 1 above, and part 2 below. Read the full transcript at Democracy Now.