Yemeni woman given firing squad reprieve

THE LIFE of a 21-year-old Yemeni mother was spared shortly before she was due to face a firing squad last week. The suspension follows international pressure on the Yemeni president to call off the execution.

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By  Rhys Jones Published  May 8, 2005

THE LIFE of a 21-year-old Yemeni mother was spared shortly before she was due to face a firing squad last week. The suspension follows international pressure on the Yemeni president to call off the execution. Amina Al Abduladif’s lawyer was with her in prison when the last-minute reprieve came. “She was shaking and crying. She had said her prayers and her farewells and was sure she was going to die,” said lawyer Shada Nasir. “What we don’t know is whether the execution has been delayed for a day or a week as no-one will tell us,” she added. Officials in the capital, Sanaa, said that Yemeni president general Ali Abdullah Saleh was “moved” when he learnt of the plight of Abduladif, who was convicted of murdering her husband when she was 16. She insists that her confession was forced from her under torture. The president last week asked justice ministers to look again at her case while her lawyers are demanding a new trial. International pressure mounted on Yemeni authorities last week to halt what Amnesty International (AI) called “a barbaric sentence”. “While AI recognises the right and responsibility of governments to bring to justice those suspected of recognisably criminal offences, it is unconditionally opposed to the death penalty,” an AI spokesperson said. A UK Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are well aware of this case and the EU is urgently discussing the matter with a number of ministers in Yemen.” For the moment Abduladif remains on death row with her two-year-old son, who was born in jail after she was allegedly raped by a prison guard. She had gone on hunger strike after a prison official told her that he had read in a newspaper that her execution date had been set for last Monday. “I have pleaded with her to eat something and to have hope,” said Nasir. “She is very grateful for all those abroad who protested about her case. We believe it was this international intervention that saved her,” she added. Abduladif was spared two years ago when she told her executioners that she was pregnant after being raped by a prison guard. But her lawyer said: “Now that her son has reached his second birthday the law here says the death sentence should be carried out.” “What has been done to this young woman by the police and the judicial system is shameful,” stated Nasir. “She has spent years in prison for a crime she didn’t commit and was raped while in their custody. I don’t know how much more she can take,” she concluded. As Arabian Business went to press, officials in Yemen said that the case was under review and that no decision was expected within the next few days. However, it is understood that high-level officials from Britain, France and Germany will be putting renewed pressure on the Yemeni government for the case review to be completed urgently, and for the woman to be released from prison pending that review's outcome.

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