A prominent Yemeni journalist, Abdulelah Haider Shaye rose to fame when he successfully managed to win the trust of well-known al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen, such as late American-born cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki and other leading figure of the terror group to shed some lights on their operations and enable the public to better understand the ins and outs of the war on terror in the region.
First commissioned by the former President Ali Abdullah Saleh to report on all things al-Qaeda, Shaye began to unveil what many came to call the Yemeni-American covert war in Yemen, exposing American-led strikes in Yemen to the greater public.
In 2009 he reported that the Majalah bombing, which had officially been claimed by the Yemeni government as
After the al-Majalah bombing, he reported that the site of the bombing was littered with remnants of U.S. Tomahawk missile and cluster munitions, contradicting claims by the government of Yemen that the bombing was its own. While the Pentagon was quick to deny Shaye's conclusions a subsequent report from Amnesty International and the release of secret data from Wikileaks corroborated his findings.
Shaye was arrested by the Yemeni government and imprisoned on charges of conspiracy against the state and links to al-Qaeda in July 2010. He allegedly was planning to assassinate then-President Saleh and his son, then-Commander in Chief of the Republican Guards, Gen. Ahmed Ali Saleh.
Following 34 days in solitary confinement, Shaye was rushed through a quickie trial, prompting outrage throughout the nation.
A presidential pardon in 2011 was retracted after American President Barack Obama intervened, asking then-President Saleh to retain Shaye under custody for fears his release would put American interests at risk.
Needless to say that rights activists and the media have tirelessly been campaigning for his release, calling on President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi to right the wrongs of the former regime. Prominent rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Federation of Journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the Yemen-based Freedom Foundation have tries to negotiate a deal with the government, one which would provision for a presidential pardon.
While many officials have often admitted that Shaye was no more than an innocent victim of circumstances, a pawn in a game of politics, the U.S continues to claim the journalist acted as an informant for al-Qaeda. U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Gerald Feierstein told Iona Craig in February 2012 (a reporter for the Times of London)that "Shaye is in jail because he was facilitating al Qaeda and its planning for attacks on Americans."
Two years after his conviction, President Hadi signaled on Wednesday to the press he was ready to free the journalist, and let by gones be by gones.
Al Jazeera bureau chief Saeed Thabit Saeed, who attended the meeting, wrote on Facebook, "We received a serious promise from President Hadi that our colleague Abdulelah Shaye will be released."
However, Shaye's close family members remain doubtful, saying that similar promises had only led to sour disappointment. Shaye's brother Khaled told the Times, "so far this is the fourth time Hadi has made this promise."