‘I’m afraid for my life’ – American disappeared in Yemen speaks from besieged prison

March 31, 2015

An American citizen who was disappeared in Yemen has told his lawyers ‘I’m afraid for my life’ on a phone call from his prison cell in the basement of a Sana’a military base. The call is the first time Sharif Mobley has spoken to anyone from his legal team in over a year.

On the phone call, broadcast today on MSNBC, Sharif can be heard telling his lawyers “there’s fighting at this military base and… Saudi Arabian bombing, it’s been bombed every night, and it’s very frightening.” He goes on to say “I’m afraid for my life.”

As a result of the phone call, Sharif’s lawyers wrote to the State Department asking that the U.S. urgently intervene with Saudi Arabian authorities – who have recently launched a military offensive against Houthi combatants – to prevent them from bombing the base at which Sharif is being held. A recent Wall Street Journal article revealed the close U.S. military co-operation with Saudi Arabia in the current operation in Yemen, noting that U.S. officials said “American military planners are using live intelligence feeds from surveillance fights over Yemen to help Saudi Arabia decide what and where to bomb.”

Sharif, a father of three from New Jersey, was last seen by representatives from international human rights organisation Reprieve on 27 February 2014. When they returned three weeks later, Reprieve staff were told that Mr Mobley had been transferred to another, secret location. All attempts by Mr Mobley’s lawyers to access him until yesterday (March 30th).

Several weeks ago a Yemeni security source told NBC news that “Sharif Mobley had been transferred in co-ordination with the U.S. and that American officials have participated in his interrogation.”

In the past year, U.S. and Yemeni officials have repeatedly refused to disclose Sharif’s location to his legal team or family. However, Sharif told his lawyers on yesterday’s call that “I’m at the same prison that the American Embassy visited me at, that time they visited me I told them, it was in December, I told them how bad everything was but they didn’t do anything to get me out of here.”

The U.S. has made no contact with Sharif since December 2014, and has ignored a prior communication on Sharif’s safety made by Reprieve on March 24th. On February 11th the U.S. closed its embassy in Yemen and evacuated all staff.

Kat Craig, Legal Director of international human rights NGO Reprieve that represents Mr Mobley, said: “The first duty of any government is to protect its citizens. Sharif Mobley, an American father of three from New Jersey, is in the pitch black basement of a military base that is being bombed by Saudi warplanes. The US knows Sharif’s whereabouts and is refusing to do anything to help him. The State Department must give the Saudis the prison location and instruct them not to bomb it. And they must bring their citizen home as soon as possible – before it is too late.”

ENDS

1. For more information please contact Reprieve’s press office on: + 44 (0) 207 553 8161 // clemency.wells@reprieve.org.uk or in the US 001 (917) 855 8064 // katherine.oshea@reprieve.org

2. A recording of the phone call is available upon request.

3. The letter from Reprieve to the U.S. State Department can be found here