Free Abdulelah Shaye

The U.S. is keeping a journalist in prison in Yemen just for doing his job.

President Barack Obama is responsible for the continuing imprisonment of a journalist in Yemen. Thanks to reporting by Jeremy Scahill, we know that Abdulelah Haider Shaye was wrongfully jailed in Yemen, and Obama personally stopped him from being pardoned and released.

In late 2009, the Yemeni government claimed that it struck an al-Qaida camp in the village of al Majala. Shaye did his own reporting and found parts of U.S. weapons, some of which were marked “Made in the U.S.A.” — he determined the U.S. was behind the strike. This was confirmed by a diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks in which Yemen’s president assured Gen. David Petraeus that “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.” Shaye’s reporting also revealed that the U.S. killed 14 women and 21 children in this strike.

Shaye was then subjected to a sham trial that included fabricated evidence. Besides reporting on the U.S.’s strike in Yemen, Shaye has interviewed members of al-Qaida and Anwar al-Awlaki. These were journalistic interviews, but he was charged as a propagandist for al-Qaida. In fact, Scahill reports that the U.S. government pressured one of the three major American media organizations Shaye worked with — ABC, the Washington Post and The New York Times — to stop working with him before he was ever imprisoned.

After outcry in Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh was ready to pardon Shaye until a call from Obama “expressing concern” about his release. The U.S., supposedly a beacon for freedom and democracy around the world, should be the last country supporting the imprisonment of journalists simply because they reveal facts that the government doesn’t want made public.