Yemeni Comedian Chooses Jail Over Submission
Yemeni comedian Fahd al-Qarni last appeared in the CRIME Report a few months ago, when he was sentenced to jail for a comedy sketch that indirectly mocked Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Now, after a grassroots campaign for his freedom and his own decision to stand strong in the face of pressure, Al-Qarni has just been released.
In July, al-Qarni was charged with “insulting Yemen’s president” and sentenced to 18 months in jail plus a $2,500 fine. But on September 11 a presidential order called for al-Qarni’s release – only prosecutors demanded he sign a pledge renouncing his controversial comedic work and promising to refrain from political activity. “I decisively refused to abandon one of my political rights guaranteed by the state-constitution, and preferred to stay in jail,” declared al-Qarni.
Last week, prosecutors backed down, releasing the comedian anyway. Al-Qarni, though, knows he may soon be back in the slammer. “Change comes from within prisons but not through dialogue,” he said after his release. “I left my blanket in prison so I may go back if people’s rights are not restored.”