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Thursday, June 30

Fears for safety of New Zealand journalist detained in Yemen

Amnesty International is gravely concerned by the apparent incommunicado detention of New Zealander Glen Johnson. The organisation calls for his whereabouts to be disclosed immediately and for him to have access to a lawyer and contact with his family.

If Mr Johnson has been arrested for an internationally recognised crime, the Yemen authorities must, without undue delays, bring charges against him. If, however, he is being held solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression then he must be immediately and unconditionally released.

The longer Mr Johnson remains in detention, the greater the risk he will face torture and other ill-treatment. This risk is particularly heightened, given the Yemen authorities’ renowned record of torture.

Yemen also has a history of undermining the right to freedom of expression through restrictive press laws and repressive actions by the security forces. In its 2011 report on the “State of the world’s human rights” Amnesty International details how people linked to the media were harassed, prosecuted and imprisoned for exercising their fundamental right to freedom of expression. The Yemen authorities’ response to the increased unrest in the country in recent months has been to pass an emergency law in March giving them the power to suspend, seize and confiscate “all media…and means of expression” as well as extensive powers of detention without being bound by the Criminal Procedure Law.