Abdulelah Haider Shaye

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Abdulelah Haider Shaye, or Abd al-Ilah Haydar Al-Sha’i (born c. 1977), is a prominent Yemeni investigative journalist best known for his reporting of the December 17, 2009 U.S. cruise missile strike on al-Majalah in southern Yemen, his interviews with al-Qaeda leaders, and the controversial nature of his arrest and imprisonment in 2011.

In 2011, Shaye was arrested, beaten, and held in solitary confinement for 34 days in Yemen. He was eventually tried and convicted of terrorism-related charges and sentenced to five years in prison, followed by two years of restricted movement and government surveillance. His conviction and sentencing was deeply unpopular with the Yemeni populace. On February 2, 2011, President Obama called then-Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to discuss counterterrorism cooperation and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. At the end of the call, according to a White House read-out, Obama "expressed concern" over the release of Shaye. Shaye had not been released at the time of the call, but Saleh did have a pardon prepared. Consequently, Shaye was not released until 2013.[1]

Shaye is related by marriage to the radical Islamic cleric Abdul Majid al Zindani and he has used this relationship and other connections to gain access to al-Qaeda leaders, including the late Yemeni-American Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.[2]

In 2013, Shaye won a coveted Alkarama Human Rights Defenders award in Geneva for his work in exposing the reality of the US-led drone war in his country.[3]

Reporting on al-Majalah bombing[edit]

Shaye reported that the site of the al-Majalah bombing was littered with remnants of U.S. Tomahawk missiles and cluster munitions, contradicting claims by the government of Yemen that the bombing was their own. U.S. responsibility was denied by Pentagon officials[4] but later confirmed by Amnesty International,[5] The Telegraph newspaper,[6] and a release of secret materials by WikiLeaks.[7] He also reported that 21 children and 14 women had been killed in the bombing.[1]


On August 16, 2010,[8] Shaye was arrested by the Yemeni government. After 34 days of confinement, he was convicted of "terrorism-related charges" in a trial regarded by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Committee to Protect Journalists, and the International Federation of Journalists as a sham trial and sentenced to 5 years' imprisonment.[2][9] After a public outcry from tribal leaders in Yemen over Shaye's imprisonment, Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh was prepared to release Shaye, but he was swayed otherwise by a call from U.S. President Barack Obama on February 2, 2011 citing his "concern" over Shaye's imminent release.[1][10][11]

Journalist Jeremy Scahill reported that, according to his sources in Yemen, Saleh rescinded his pardon primarily due to the call from President Obama. Scahill suggested that Yemen's counter-terrorism funding from the United States may have motivated Saleh's cooperation.[12]

On July 23, 2013, Shaye was released from prison to serve out the remaining two years of his five-year sentence under house arrest.[13]

In media[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Scahill, Jeremey (13 March 2012). "Why Is President Obama Keeping a Journalist in Prison in Yemen?". The Nation. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
  2. ^ a b Tennant, Michael (2012-03-16). "How — and Why — Obama Kept a Jailed Yemeni Journalist From Being Pardoned". The New American. Retrieved 8 May 2012.
  3. ^ Chulov, Marti (6 December 2013). "Jailed Yemeni journalist receives Human Rights Defenders award". theguardian.com. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  4. ^ Tisdall, Simon (29 December 2009). "Obama takes 'war on terror' to Yemen". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2012-03-16.
  5. ^ "Images of missile and cluster munitions point to US role in fatal attack in Yemen". Amnesty International. Retrieved 2012-03-16.
  6. ^ Spencer, Richard (7 June 2010). "US cluster bombs 'killed 35 women and children'". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2012-03-16.
  7. ^ "WikiLeaks: U.S. bombs Yemen in secret". salon.com. Retrieved 2012-03-16.
  8. ^ http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2011/02/obama-intervention-puts-yemen-reporter-in-jail/
  9. ^ "Jeremy Scahill: Why is President Obama Keeping Yemeni Journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye in Prison?". democracynow.org. Retrieved 2012-03-16.
  10. ^ Tapper, Jake (16 March 2012). "White House Stands By Obama Push for Yemeni Journalist to Remain Behind Bars". ABC News. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
  11. ^ "Readout of President's Call with President Saleh of Yemen". The White House. Retrieved 2012-03-16.
  12. ^ Scahill, Jeremey; Marco Werman; Joyce Hackel (6 April 2012). "Prominent Yemeni Journalist Lands in Jail; US Wants him to Stay There". The World. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
  13. ^ "Abdul Ilah Haydar Shae is freed". Yemen Post. 23 July 2013. Retrieved 24 July 2013.