Reprieve Press Release: The Yemeni government is refusing to tell their US counterparts the whereabouts of a detained American citizen, according to US Embassy staff in Sana’a.
Sharif Mobley, whose wife and children live in Philadelphia, was last seen by his lawyer in a hearing in Sana’a’s Western court 49 days ago on 19 February 2014. Reprieve’s Yemeni staff then spoke to him through a fence of Sana’a’s central prison on 27 February. When they returned three weeks later, they were told that Mr Mobley had been transferred to another location – but all attempts to trace him have failed.
In correspondence with Reprieve, a US Embassy official stated: “We have contacted all the possible locations where he could be held. We have received denials from everyone except the Ministry of the Interior who said they would get back to us. We are sending a diplomatic note out tomorrow and pressing to visit Mr. Mobley…I agree we should be getting official confirmations on his whereabouts and his situation. However none of the officials we contacted feel comfortable giving us a direct answer. They all cite security concerns about releasing that information.”
Embassy staff report that when they asked to meet Mr Mobley in mid-March they were told that the prison administration was not allowed to provide any information on his whereabouts. The Yemeni Ministry of Interior confirmed Mr Mobley’s continued detention but refused to reveal his location.
Mr Mobley’s disappearance is the latest development in an ordeal that began in January 2010, when he was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen from outside his house in Sana’a, shot in the leg and held incommunicado for several months. Whilst in secret detention he was violently interrogated by two US agents who called themselves ‘Matt from FBI and Khan from DOD’. Logs released under a Freedom of Information request indicate that US agents interrogated Mr Mobley repeatedly during this period. He was also threatened with further abuse (including rape and the rape of his wife) and beaten so badly he had to be re-hospitalized.
In late 2010 all terrorism charges against Mr Mobley were dropped, and he was moved to a civilian prison to face murder charges relating to the death of a Yemeni police officer in the course of an alleged escape attempt. The judge in the trial is currently deliberating on the legality of Mr Mobley’s original arrest and detention.
Mr Mobley’s disappearance came on the eve of a court hearing at which Mr Mobley’s Yemeni lawyer, Khaled al-Ansi, was due to present extensive evidence on the US authorities’ role in his original disappearance.
Nzinga Mobley, Sharif’s wife, said: “When my husband first disappeared in Yemen we feared the worst. And when we finally found him he had indeed been badly beaten and abused. Now I am told that he has disappeared again, and that even the US government is powerless to trace him. How can the US allow its citizen to be so badly abused? My baby daughter keeps asking when her daddy is going to call – what am I supposed to tell her? We are sick with worry.”
Reprieve lawyer Cori Crider said: “It is unfortunate that Mr Mobley disappeared just as a court was about to hear evidence of his violent kidnap in a misguided joint Yemeni-US security operation. The fact that all terrorism charges against Mr Mobley have been dropped suggests just how embarrassing this case already is for both governments. Yet the Yemeni authorities are continuing to use dirty tactics to hide the truth. Enough is enough. The US government must insist that their Yemeni counterparts produce Mr Mobley without further delay.”