Sentencing of Somali Convert in Yemen Delayed

Wednesday, July 12, 2000

by Jeff Taylor

LOS ANGELES, July 12 (Compass) -- The sentencing of a former Muslim on trial in Yemen for converting to Christianity was delayed until next Wednesday, July 19, his lawyer confirmed today.

"This morning the judge was very busy," Haji's attorney, Mohammed Abdulkarim Omarawi, told Compass by telephone from the southern port city of Aden. "He had a lot of cases … because of that, he gave us a new date, to the next week."

Due to the delay, Haji was not brought to Aden's First Court in Tawahi where the sentencing was scheduled, Omarawi said. "But I can see him at any time; that is not a problem." Haji is reportedly being well-treated in his cell at Mansoora Jail.

On July 5, the Somali refugee was given a seven-day ultimatum to either return to Islam or face the death penalty for committing apostasy. But on July 9, Haji was brought before the prosecutor and questioned without his attorney being present.

"They did not let me come to the hearing on (July 9)," Omarawi said. "I do not know why. When I asked the judge, he told me that the general prosecutor brought him (Haji) to ask some questions."

Omarawi told Compass the court may be considering deporting Haji "to finish this problem." If that were to occur, the lawyer said he expected the man's wife and small child to be deported with him.

Haji has been charged under Article 259 of Yemen's criminal law with committing apostasy, a capital offense under the Muslim laws of "sharia" enforced in Yemen. Haji, 27, converted to Christianity some two years ago. A refugee registered with the UNHCR office in Aden, Haji came to Yemen in 1994.

Haji and his wife, Sarah, have a seven-month-old son.

Copyright © 2000 Compass Direct News Service. Used with permission.