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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05SANAA2767
2005-09-17 13:14:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Sanaa
Cable title:  

DFM EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER KIDNAPPING OF

Tags:   PREL  PTER  PGOV  ECON  PHUM  YM  DOMESTIC  POLITICS 
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171314Z Sep 05
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 SANAA 002767 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/13/2015
TAGS: PREL PTER PGOV ECON PHUM YM DOMESTIC POLITICS
SUBJECT: DFM EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER KIDNAPPING OF
JOURNALIST AND HIS OWN SAFETY


Classified By: DCM Nabeel Khoury for reasons 1.4 b and d.



1. (C) Summary: On September 13, DFM Mustafa Noman briefed
DCM on the recent kidnapping and assault of his close friend,
journalist Jamal Amer. Noman also shared his concerns that
his perceived support for Amer angered President Saleh, who
reportedly encouraged Zindani to publicly attack Noman.



--------------------------



--------------------------


Kidnapped Journalist: Part of a Disturbing Trend?


--------------------------



--------------------------





2. (C) Noman retold the story of Amer's abduction, which was
widely published in the local and international media. On
August 23, Amer was abducted from his home by armed men in a
car bearing a license plate number normally reserved for the
Republican Guard, the President's own elite military unit.
Amer was taken to a remote location and beaten for alleged
fax communications with the US and Kuwaiti Ambassadors,
supposedly in an attempt to undermine the Yemeni government.
After an interrogation of his involvement with foreign
embassies, Amer was returned home four hours later. He
reported the abduction to MOI authorities and helped a sketch
artist create a detailed sketch of the lead abductor.



3. (C) Noman believed the allegations of contact with the
American and Kuwaiti embassies were an attempt to mask Amer's
real offense, which was the publishing of several articles
accusing high-level government officials of corruption.
While Amer's abductors demonstrated a lack of
professionalism, continued Noman, by showing their faces and
employing rudimentary interrogation tactics, he believes it
was unlikely they acted without high-level government
support. (Note: Amer is not an isolated case of harassment.
In the last several weeks several journalists critical of the
government have been arrested or had materials confiscated).




4. (C) Two hours after the abduction, Noman alerted Saleh's
office to the incident, after receiving a call from Amer's
wife, believing the President would want to know immediately.
Instead, Saleh was angry he received a direct call on the
issue. According to Noman, the President was already upset
with him, believing Noman supported journalists against the
government and passed information to Amer. (Note: Saleh
recently named Noman Ambassador to India, which the DFM
considers a slight as he expected to receive London, Paris or
Rome).



--------------------------


Zindani Lashes Out


--------------------------





5. (C) One week after the abduction, Akhbar al Youm (a
sensational paper reportedly used by Saleh's supporters to

trash his foes) published a statement by Zindani saying that
it was against national and Sharia law to act against another
Muslim without just cause. "This is interesting" said Noman,
considering the accusation stems from a February television
interview, where he said Yemen was committed to enforcing the
UN Security Resolution targeting Zindani's assets. Noman
questioned why Zindani would launch an attack on a seven
month old interview, especially after the Foreign Minister
and Prime Minister immediately made public statements
contradicting him, saying the ROYG would not support freezing
Zindani's assets without concrete evidence. The only logical
reason, Noman asserted, is that the President wanted to
intimidate him over his support for other journalists.



6. (C) On September 8, Noman met Zindani to discuss the
issue privately. During the meeting, Zindani admitted that
Saleh encouraged him to publish a statement against Noman,
based on the February interview. Noman assured Zindani that
his comments had been misconstrued and that he would not
support freezing Zindani's assets without clear proof.
Zindani considered the issue settled and promised to publish
a clarification to ensure that his supporters did not
consider the original statement to be a fatwa against Noman.



--------------------------


Comment


--------------------------





7. (C) Noman, a well-known advocate for political and
economic reform, was still visibly shaken from the run-in
with Zindani. Noman fears that any young supporter of
Zindani could take it upon himself to avenge his master for
the perceived slight from Noman. He plans to travel to Cairo
soon, presumably to await the publishing of Zindani's
clarification that Noman did not violate Sharia law. Already
frustrated with the government in general, Noman admitted he
was actively pursuing a private UN position.



8. (C) The abduction of Amer and Saleh's possible collusion
with Zindani to attack a member of his own government
highlights several disturbing trends. While the mastermind
of the kidnapping is unknown, it appears to be part of an
organized campaign to intimidate the press with at least the
tacit approval of government officials. The kidnapping
follows an increasing number of articles criticizing Saleh
and numerous other high-level officials for corruption.
Yemeni authorities possess the license plate number and a
detailed sketch of one of the abductors. If the ROYG is
serious about finding those responsible, it could do so
easily. To date, however, no suspects have been detained or
questioned.



9. (C) Further, Saleh's use of Zindani as a tool to
intimidate reformers is also of great concern. While Noman
himself is no real threat to the regime, his brother
currently living in Germany plans to run for president.
Neither Saleh's thin skinned reactions to any criticism nor
his lashing out at friend and foe alike bode well for
transparency and tolerance in the run-up to the 2006
Presidential Election.



Krajeski