Facebook posts express our opinions and beliefs, which some may like and others may not. Yet the last thing Yemeni national Ali al-Saiidi expected was for something he wrote on his Facebook page to lead to him being accused of being an infidel, tried and perhaps even sentenced to death.
Saiidi served as the general director for budget and planning at the Yemeni Higher Judicial Council Secretariat. He posted on his Facebook page an analysis of the Quran and the Sunna, and his colleagues immediately reported him to the prosecutor’s office. His attorney Amin Hajar said that the Higher Judicial Council did not make any decision in this case, as “it is not a crime.” Still, Saiidi’s colleagues would not relent and insisted on taking the issue before the attorney general, who, in turn, transferred it to the office of the prosecutor in charge of the press and printed publications.
“Saiidi’s colleagues came up with this scheme because they wanted him gone to take his job,” Hajar claims. “Even though the case does not have the conditions needed [to make it to court], the judiciary still got involved in it. Unfortunately, our judiciary is corrupt.”
Saiidi’s family appealed to human rights groups and released a statement saying, “We are afraid and worried about the violations and threats to our son’s life. He runs the threat of being executed without any legitimate or legal reason. The aim is to deprive him of his right to think and believe, and to prevent him from exercising his [powers of] reasoning, forethought and meditation, according to his Islamic beliefs, in order to find the truth on the religious level.”
There is nothing in Saiidi’s writings to show that he is an unbeliever. His post, titled “Uncertainty between [the power of] reasoning and inherited [beliefs]” criticizes beliefs that have no foundations in the Quran and emphasizes the importance of using one’s reasoning to keep one’s behavior under check as a gateway to finding the truth in matters of religion.
During the court hearing held Monday December 10 in the presence of legal activists and journalists, Saiidi’s defense team presented several arguments to prove that the crime accusation has no legal foundations. The prosecutor’s office requested that the session be adjourned in order to come up with the appropriate response to these arguments.
Saiidi had been released before the session, as his defense team filed a petition stating that he has only one functional kidney, having donated the second to his wife. Still, the prosecutor’s office ordered them to be separated.
“Throughout the trial, Saiidi kept proclaiming the shahada [Muslim declaration of faith] in order to prove that he is a Muslim and no infidel,” said MP Ahmad Hashed Hashem, a supporter of Saiidi. “He has published three posts on Facebook, and none of the things he wrote was new. It is inadmissible for him to be accused of being an infidel to the exclusion of all those before him.”
According to Hashem, the problem lies in the fact that there is no Yemeni judiciary specializing in media issues. Press and printed publications courts are trying people for what they post on their personal pages.
Hashem notes that Saiidi’s case is not unique, pointing to the case of a man in the province of Ibb who is being tried on charges of apostasy for something he wrote on social media. In the province of Al-Bayda, a school teacher was sentenced to two years in prison for objecting to videos shown at school that contained sectarian material.
As it stands now, all Saiidi and his wife and five children can do is wait and see if he will be executed for something he wrote on Facebook.
This article is a translation of the original Arabic