A court in Yemen today heard that an American citizen who disappeared in February this year may have been transferred to a secretive, US-funded ‘court’ which has been strongly criticised by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for failing to meet international fair trial standards.
Sharif Mobley, from New Jersey, disappeared from Sana’a Central Prison six months ago and has been held in secret detention ever since. He has not been produced for any of his last four trial hearings in a civilian court in the country’s capital, where he is facing murder charges. He continues to be denied any access to his lawyers.
Today, the civilian court heard – in comments which the judge subsequently ordered to be struck from the record – that Mr Mobley has been transferred to face trial before the Specialized Criminal Court administered by the US-backed National Security Bureau (NSB).
The judge, Abdelwali al-Shaabani, ordered the Attorney General to locate Mr. Mobley and bear the responsibility for bringing him to hearings, as well as ordering an investigation into the Attorney General’s failure to bring Mr. Mobley to five hearings.
While representatives of the Attorney General’s office did not indicate that they knew where Mr. Mobley is being detained, a lawyer for the victim’s family stated before the court that he had been informed by a prison guard that Mr. Mobley had been transferred to the Specialized Criminal Court.
In July, US Embassy officials admitted to having visited Mr. Mobley but refused to identify his location to either his lawyers or his family.
Mr. Mobley had been on the verge of presenting key evidence regarding US and Yemeni complicity in his 2010 abduction when he was forcibly disappeared. He was first kidnapped in January 2010 by unidentified gunmen from outside his house in Sana'a, shot in the leg and held incommunicado for several months. While in secret detention he was interrogated by two US agents, threatened with further abuse (including rape, and the rape of his wife) and beaten so badly he had to be hospitalized. He currently faces murder charges relating to the death of a Yemeni police officer in the course of an alleged escape attempt.
Mr. Mobley’s Yemeni lawyer, Khalid Al-Anasi said: “I have serious concerns for my client’s health and safety. The Attorney General’s office’s failure to produce him confirms that the case is not in the judiciary’s hands but in the hands of the Yemeni security services and the US government, represented by its embassy in Sana’a.”
Reprieve Investigator Katie Taylor said: “Mr. Mobley is being denied justice at every turn. He has been tortured, blocked from seeing his lawyers, and is now being prevented from even attending his own trial. Rumours that he has disappeared into a secretive, abusive court system are worrying enough. But the prospect that those abusing a US citizen are being funded by US taxpayers should set alarm bells ringing in Washington.”