- Free Media Center
Ahmed Maher, a Yemeni journalist, was arrested and forcibly disappeared in August 2022 by the Southern Transitional Council’s ( STC) security services in Yemen’s southern governorate of Aden. Maher was subjected to severe torture, his navel is still bleeding until the moment, to force him to confess to the charge of participating in terrorist operations. After the re-investigation he was charged with another charge. His trial session was canceled for the sixth time, so he went on hunger strike.
The Yemeni journalist Ahmed Abdullah Maher (27 years old) put his life in the line in the hope of regaining his stolen freedom, by announcing a hunger strike. He began in January 2023, until they achieve his two main demands : First: To investigate all the violations he has been subjected to since his arrest on August 6, 2022. Second: His right to a fair trial and to transfer from his prison to attend his trial sessions, which were postponed six times due to the refusal of Bir Ahmed prison administration in the southern city of Aden to transfer him to the court.
Maher has been a journalist since 2013. Since 2016 he has focused mainly on violations committed by armed groups in Aden governorate, and in 2017 he was attacked by armed groups while covering the deportation of northern Yemeni citizens in the southern governorate of Aden.
Maher was one of the most active journalists reporting from Aden. He has been a frequent guest on TV channels, such as Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya and BBC Arabic. He was expressing views against the STC, which he believes was the reason why an arrest warrant was issued against him in 2019, forcing him to leave Aden in August 2019 and return three years later to be arrested and tortured.
After the formation of the Yemeni Presidential Council on the seventh of April 2022, Maher was reassured of the new consensual situation. As the Southern Transitional Council became one of the components of the Presidential Council. After that Maher returned to his home in the city of Aden unknowing that the STC was tracking his movements. On August 6, 2022, members of Dar Saad police station broke into the family house , and Ahmed was arrested with his brother Mayas and taken to an unknown location.
Maher remained forcibly disappeared for three days, Maher’s father says: “I tried to find out his location by asking the director of Dar Saad police station, Colonel Musleh al-Zarhani, but he refused to disclose any information and told me: Your son is a terrorist.”
After intensive follow-up, the journalist’s family learned that their son was being held in Bir Ahmed prison in Buraiqah, north of Aden. A prison which previously run by Emirati intelligence and currently run by the STC’s Security Belt Forces.
After his release, Mayas Abdullah Maher said that his brother Ahmed was severely tortured after being taken to Dar Saad police station, where he was not allowed to sleep for nearly 30 hours at first: “The policemen forced him to stand, they didn’t even allow him to lean against the wall.”
After that, for two weeks the journalist Maher stood for about 16 hours a day. Mayas confirms that the interrogation process lasted from 10 a.m. to 2 and a half at night. During it the soldiers periodically attacked him. “ They beat him around his genitals and on his stomach with sticks and iron wires wrapped in plastic. His navel was injured and still suffers from bleeding till today.”
Mayas mentioned that his journalist brother was electrocuted and his head was drowned in the water for a long time. The soldiers brought a piece of cotton clothing, wet it with water then placed it on Ahmed’s mouth and nose, and pressed by one of the soldiers for a few minutes.
Maher was also subjected to a fake execution.Where they cover his eyes then shoot him near the head in order to force him to confess his connection with terrorism and participating in planning the assassination of General Muthanna Jawas. A police officer threatened to kill his daughter, his father and brother, as well as to kidnap and rape his wife.
To relieve the cruelty of torture, Maher made confessions that were filmed on video and posted on social media in September 2022.
The Yemeni Journalists Syndicate denounced the repressive method practiced by the security authorities in Aden against journalist Ahmed Maher, on the background of practicing the profession and expressing his positions and opinions. As well as the methods of torture he was subjected to and forcing him to “make false and untrue confessions”.
The syndicate considered that the justification made by the security authorities in Aden for their violations is against the constitution, the law and international human rights conventions, and put the responsibility of Maher’s torture on the internationally recognized Yemeni government.
A policeman told Maher that prosecution would come to listen to him, and told him to say that the injury on his navel, which is still bleeding is “Not because of torture.” If he doesn’t say so, they will beat him more.
In October 2022, the prosecution heard Maher’s statements in the presence of the police officers who tortured him, Maher told the prosecution what the officers wanted, that he had been suffering from problems with his navel for a year or two, and that he did not try to get treatment due to laziness.
In December 2022, the prison doctor examined the journalist after most of the signs of assault had faded. But the evidence of the injuries was clearly visible at the time of the examination, as there was “a little blood flowing from his navel” and the doctor recommended “seeing a specialist to find out the cause of the bleeding”.
Maher showed his health condition and the torture effects to the Specialized Criminal Prosecutor when he visited him in prison. He asked him to direct the prison administration to take him to a specialist doctor. The prosecutor agreed, but the prison director refused to respond to the prosecutor’s orders.
Reinvestigation and Procrastination of Trial
Defense lawyer Mazen Salam provided an appeal that all procedures taken against journalist Ahmed Maher considering them as a violation of national law and international laws of human rights and freedom of opinion and expression. He requested that Maher be re-interrogated without the presence of the security soldiers who tortured him.
Salam pointed out that at first the prosecution stuck to the integrity of procedures and tried to bring Maher to trial along with18 individuals accused of carrying out terrorist operations, he added: “The prosecution claimed that Maher” confessed” when in fact he was tortured during the investigation and forced to make “confessions”and this violates the minimum guarantees in Article (3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states: Not to be compelled to testify against himself or to confess guilt”.
The lawyer confirmed that he lodged another appeal before the Public Prosecution, which accepted the appeal and ordered the Specialized Criminal Prosecution to re-investigate Maher, and this is what happened. The prosecution brought Maher to trial before the Specialized Criminal Court on charges of “breaking social cohesion and disturbing public peace through his posts on social media”.According to the lawyer, this is a legal violation as the Press Court is the specialist
Court for publishing cases.
On January 2, 2023, journalist Ahmed Maher began an open hunger strike to protest the delay in his trial. Though the Criminal Court scheduled the session of Maher’s trial, later it decided to postpone it to January 15, 2023 for the seventh time in a row. That was after the prison administration refused to transfer the journalist to the courthouse, claiming that there was no petrol for the car that was supposed to transfer prisoners to the courthouse. Although Maher’s family expressed their willingness to afford the transportation costs. However, they did not receive a response from the concerned authorities.