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Page last updated at 18:39 GMT, Thursday, 25 September 2008 19:39 UK

Yemen sets jailed journalist free

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Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has ordered the release from prison of a local journalist whose jailing in June sparked an international outcry.

Abdulkarim Khiwani was given a six-year term after being accused of supporting Shia rebels fighting the government in the north since 2004.

But his lawyers maintained material about rebels found in his possession was essential for his journalism.

The United States had condemned the sentence, as had Amnesty International.

The court decided "to release him from jail after he pledged to respect the constitution and the country's laws", said Justice Minister Ghazi al-Aghbari.

There is no word on the fate of a dozen other people sentenced at the same time - one of whom was condemned to death.

Harassment

Amnesty International gave Mr Khiwani a human rights journalism award after his imprisonment. He told the organisation by phone that there were no conditions on his release.

"This is very welcome news. No journalist should be imprisoned simply for doing their job," said Amnesty director Kate Allen.

"We were dismayed at his imprisonment earlier this year... The important thing now is that Abdulkarim is allowed to go back to his journalistic work without further intimidation or harassment of any kind."

The US State Department condemned the imprisonment saying it pointed to a "distressing trend" in which Yemeni courts muzzled the independent media.

Mr Khiwani is editor of the Zaidi weekly paper al-Shura. Zaidis belong to an offshoot of Shia Islam. They are a minority in mainly Sunni Muslim Yemen, but make up the majority in the north-west of the country.

Zaidi rebels have been battling government troops in Saada province for the last five years and thousands of people have died.


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Country profile: Yemen
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Timeline: Yemen
18 Apr 08 |  Country profiles


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