Reprieve is working to save Sharif Mobley, an American citizen currently held in unlawful secret detention in Yemen, and facing a potential death sentence.
Sharif was born and raised in New Jersey and lived in the US until mid-2008, when he moved to Yemen with his wife and young daughter. However, in late 2009 the security situation in Yemen deteriorated; Sharif and his family decided that it was time to go home to the States.
However, when Sharif presented himself at the American Embassy, US officials refused to process the family’s papers, and instead interrogated Sharif about his contacts and activities in Yemen. After he left the Embassy, he noticed that he was being followed home. The family returned several times in an effort to persuade consular officials to help them return to the US safely, but each time they were denied help.
On the morning of January 26th 2010, two white vans pulled up to a small shop on Souq al-Maqaleh Street in Sana’a, Yemen – the neighbourhood where the Mobley family lived. Sharif, who had been grocery shopping, was in front of the shop, taking a break for tea. Eight armed men clad in black and balaclavas poured out of the vans. Without identifying themselves or showing a warrant, they grabbed Sharif. Fearing he was being kidnapped, Sharif managed to escape their grasp, but made it just steps before they shot him twice in the leg. The men then threw Sharif, crying out for his wife, into one of the vans, and sped away.
Sharif’s wife reported the kidnapping to the US Embassy that day. Consular officials refused to help. At one in the morning that night, fifteen to twenty soldiers and plainclothesmen raided the Mobley family home. Sharif’s wife and two children were held at gunpoint and strip-searched.
Meanwhile, Sharif Mobley had been taken to the Typical Police Hospital in Sana’a, a hospital that is managed by a German consultancy firm. In the van on the way there, he had asked to speak to consular officials. Every time he asked, the masked men would strike him in the head. He could not see the men, as he was hooded, but he heard them speaking on mobiles about how ‘easy’ his abduction had been. At the Police Hospital, Sharif’s leg was operated on and he was given heavy doses of disorientating post-operative drugs. Afterwards, he was taken up to the Police Hospital’s third-floor ‘prison ward’, where prisoners are held, under no names, for interrogation and detention without trial. On the prison ward, Sharif was blindfolded and shackled to the hospital bed, one arm on either side, effectively for twenty-four hours a day.
After four days chained to the bed, two US agents arrived at Sharif’s hospital room. No badges were shown and no surnames were given. The agents said only that they were “Matt from FBI and Khan from DOD”. Over the next few weeks, “Matt” and “Khan” interrogated Sharif approximately half a dozen times, each time using his fears and his disorientation against him. During one interrogation session, they dangled the keys to his house in his face, implying that his wife was either in their custody or in severe danger. This created in him a terror that his wife would be abducted and assaulted. They also threatened that he would be sent to prison and that he would be raped there, that his wife would be seized as he was, that his children would be placed in an orphanage, and that he would never see his family again.
At the last of these sessions in the Police Hospital, the agents told Sharif that he was going to be taken to prison very soon. They reiterated the threat that he would be raped, and said further questioning from them would follow. Shortly thereafter, Sharif was prepared for movement. Medical staff removed the catheter he had been forced to wear. The removal, either through roughness or incompetence, caused him to bleed heavily from his genitals. Despite this, Sharif was hooded and shackled, put in the back of a van, and driven to a new site – most likely the Political Security (PSO) prison in Sana’a.
At the PSO prison, soldiers pushed Sharif from the van and tried to make him walk to his cell. Having been chained to a bed for the better part of a month, Mr. Mobley’s muscles had atrophied and he fell. This earned him a beating by the guards, who kicked him in the leg, despite his injuries, and cursed him. They then dragged him down a flight of stairs and left him on a metal slab, where he blacked out. When he came to, he saw that blood had seeped through the front of the prison garb he had been put in.
Sharif was then taken to the General (Jumhori) Hospital in Sana’a, where his incommunicado detention continued for several more weeks. “Matt” and “Khan” came to interrogate him at least once during this period, and reiterated many of their previous threats. Again, at no point was Sharif permitted to see a consular official or given any news of the situation or whereabouts of his family.
Sharif is now alleged to have tried to escape from the Jumhori Hospital where he was being held incommunicado, in the process shooting two guards, one fatally. At no point have US or Yemeni officials conceded the fact of his abduction, weeks of secret detention, or his abuse. Indeed, nameless agents have variously told the media that Sharif is Somali; that he was seized in March, as opposed to January; and that he was arrested in a ‘sweep’, as opposed to a solo kidnapping. He now faces a possible death sentence if convicted of the shooting in a trial in Yemen. Reprieve Legal Director Cori Crider, working with local co-counsel in Yemen, is representing Sharif in the Yemeni courts.
Please click here to watch a video of Cori Crider meeting Sharif Mobley's family.
Please click here to watch a video of Cori Crider and Reprieve Investigator Ghada Eldemellawy trip to Yemen to meet with Sharif and attend his hearing.