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UAE-backed forces 'detained, tortured' Yemen journalist after Emmy Award-nominated report

Adel Al-Hasani has been held since September. [Twitter]

Date of publication: 23 February, 2021

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Yemen journalist Adel Al-Hasani was arrested in September and has reportedly been tortured and mistreated by forces loyal to the UAE.
UAE-backed, Southern Transitional Council (STC) forces in Yemen have tortured and arbitrarily detained a leading Yemeni journalist since September, Human Rights Watch said this week.

Adel Al-Hasani - who has worked with outlets such as the BBC and CNN - was arrested, threatened, beaten, and forced to confess to "using his work as a journalist to spy for foreign countries".

HRW have called for the immediate release of the journalist.

"The STC authorities should immediately and unconditionally release Al-Hasani unless he has been appropriately charged with a recognisable offence. They should investigate and take action against those responsible for torturing or otherwise ill-treating Al-Hasani," said HRW.

Before his arrest, Al-Hasani worked in Yemen as an investigative journalist, producer, and fixer for international journalists covering the war, working with the BBC, CNN, and Vice

His arrest is believed to be related to an interview with a UAE intelligence officer named Saeed al-Mahiri in Aden, 2018.

During the interview, Al-Hasani requested background information about the UAE's involvement in the war in Yemen. 

Following the meeting, Al-Mahiri sent threatening messages to Al-Hasani, warning him that he must not reveal information regarding the UAE's actions in Yemen, according to sources who spoke to HRW.

Al-Hasani continued his work with international media organisations. 

In 2019, he worked for CNN on a story that revealed how a shipment of US weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE ended up in the hands of Al-Qaeda linked groups. 

Al-Hasani was listed as a producer on the report, which was nominated for two News and Documentary Emmy awards in late 2020.

Sources claim that Al-Hasani's car was stopped at a checkpoint on 17 September by STC forces, who subsequently detained him. 

He was transferred to Dofus checkpoint in Abyan governorate, where he was interrogated, chained, and beaten with rifle butts.

Sources stated that the men torturing the journalist were wearing the uniforms of the Support and Reinforcement Brigades, a pro-STC group.

Following this mistreatment, Al-Hasani was transferred to another jail where he was beaten again before being dispatched to Bir Ahmed, an informal detention facility in an STC-controlled district of Aden on 19 September.

Here he was subjected to further torture, solitary confinement, and unsanitary conditions. Interrogators threatened to kill his family if he did not confess to spying for foreign countries and groups. 

According to sources, at some point following this mistreatment Al-Hasani signed a forced confession and was transferred to Al-Mansoura prison in Aden on 12 October.

"More and more journalists across Yemen are subjected to threats, intimidation, violence, or detention simply for doing their jobs reporting on the country," said Human Rights Watch's Yemen researcher, Afrah Nasser.

"The Southern Transitional Council’s deplorable treatment of Adel Al-Hasani further stains the appalling rights record of the STC and their UAE backers."

Read more: How the odds were stacked against Yemen's Arab Spring revolution

Radhya Almutawakel, the chairperson of Mwatana for Human Rights, an independent Yemeni organisation, said that despite claims it's no longer directly involved in the Yemen conflict, its support for "abusive local forces" make it responsible for their actions.

"The UAE should end its support of abusive forces. Facilitating the prompt release of Al-Hasani would be a good place to start," Almutawakel said.

Al-Hasani's lawyer, Liza Manaa Saeed, has called for his release and said there is a lack of material evidence to warrant his detention.

"These are baseless allegations. It is entirely normal and expected that Adel's occupation as an international journalist requires him to communicate with foreigners and handle foreign money," Saeed told CNN.

According to the lawyer, the prosecutor’s office will not release Al-Hasani due to orders from the STC and UAE officials. 

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