Today, as the foreign media descended on Sana’a and the Movenpick hotel, home to Yemen’s election media canter, the US ambassador Gerald Feierstein spent the morning doing multiple interviews with the now rather large (by Yemen standards) international press pack.
In addition to repeating what he told other reporters about Iranian support of the northern Houthi rebels, a common theme it seems that propped up in interviews today, he also listed some of the recent successes of the ‘never better’ counter terrorism relationship with the Yemen government.
In my closing question I asked him about the case of Yemeni journalist Abdul-Elah Haidar Shaye and pointed to the concerns expressed in a workshop with around a dozen local journalists I took part in yesterday (a representative of the US embassy was also present as an observer at the workshop).
This was Mr Feierstein’s response (after laughing):
“Haidar Shaye is in jail because he was facilitating al-Qaeda and its planning for attacks on Americans and therefore we have a very direct interest in his case and his imprisonment. But this isn’t anything to do with journalism, it is to do with the fact that he was assisting AQAP and if they [Yemeni journalists] are not doing that they don’t have anything to worry about from us.”
One Yemeni journalist and al-Qaeda specialist renamed himself an ‘analyst of Islamic groups’ and refuses to do TV interviews especially with Al Jazeera after what happened to Shaye.
The Yemeni Journalist Syndicate say Shaye has abandoned his recent hunger strike, at the request of his family, after his health rapidly deteriorated, hampering his ability to walk and talk.
For more background on Shaye’s case click on the Shaye tag below.