Lawyers for US citizen missing from Yemeni jail ask UN to intervene

Sharif Mobley, detained since 2010, considered by his attorneys to be 'disappeared' and has not been seen since 27 February

Lawyers for an American missing from a jail in Yemen are asking the United Nations to intervene, even as Yemeni officials insist he has not been disappeared.

Sharif Mobley has not been seen by his lawyers since 27 February. Attorneys for Mobley, who has been detained since 2010 and is awaiting trial on murder charges, consider him to be “disappeared” from the central prison in the capital city of Sana’a.

His wife, Nzinga Islam, will release an open letter to President Barack Obama urging him to “use your great power for good, and help this citizen who has been treated so unfairly.”

Reprieve, the UK-based human rights group representing Mobley, wrote on 30 April to the United Nations working group on enforced or involuntary disappearances requesting “urgent action” in the case.

“Mr Mobley was disappeared on the eve of a hearing in which his defense team was due to introduce extensive evidence about the United States’ role in his original secret detention. His current imprisonment is unlawful, raises serious ill‐treatment concerns, and creates real doubt that he will receive a fair trial in Yemen,” Reprieve strategic director Cori Crider wrote in the letter seeking a UN inquiry.

Mobley, an American citizen studying in Yemen with his family, was shot and detained weeks after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to blow up a civilian airliner in December 2009, allegedly with the assistance of Anwar al-Awlaki, the US citizen-turned al-Qaeda propagandist who has since been killed. US officials reportedly believed Mobley, who friends described as increasingly radical, could lead them to al-Awlaki, and FBI agents questioned Mobley at his hospital bed. The US killed al-Awlaki in a drone strike in 2011.

Yemen, whose security services are heavily supported by Washington, later dropped terrorism charges against Mobley, but charged him with murder after a guard was killed during an alleged attempt by Mobley to escape from the hospital.

Reprieve told the UN that repeated efforts at visiting Yemeni prisons and communicating with Yemeni authorities and the US Embassy in Sanaa were unsuccessful in yielding any evidence of Mobley’s whereabouts.

A Yemeni official told the Guardian that Mobley is still in the Sana'a central prison and advised his attorneys to coordinate visits with the embassy.

“I have been repeatedly in contact with the US Embassy about Sharif Mobley,” said Crider. “I can’t get the facts about where my client is.”

The State Department would not comment on Mobley’s case, citing “privacy considerations,” but an official said consular officials “strive to assist US citizens detained abroad whenever possible,” a reiteration of the same statement given to the Guardian for an 10 April story.

Mobley’s wife Islam will ask Obama in her forthcoming open letter: “President Obama, your government and the Yemeni government must know where my husband is being held. Can you imagine Michelle being taken from you and no one telling you where she is? Would you go out of your mind with worry?”


Spencer Ackerman in New York

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
American citizen Sharif Mobley is missing in Yemen – lawyers
State Department declines to comment on case lawyer says is a 'textbook disappearance'

Spencer Ackerman in New York

10, Apr, 2014 @10:18 PM

Article image
US diplomats admit contact in Yemen with missing citizen Sharif Mobley
Mobley unavailable to lawyers since February as attorney says: 'US officials are mixed up in this detention'

Spencer Ackerman in New York

25, Jul, 2014 @6:41 PM

Article image
The takeaway from the Yemeni 'underwear bomber' plot | Karen Greenberg

Karen Greenberg: Counterterror policy since 9/11 has often been ineffective, even illegal. At last, trusted traditional methods are paying off

Karen Greenberg

09, May, 2012 @7:53 PM

Article image
Families of US citizens killed in drone strike file wrongful death lawsuit

Yemen strike against "kill list" member Anwar al-Awlaki also killed his teenage son and an alleged al-Qaida propagandist

Karen McVeigh in New York

18, Jul, 2012 @7:09 PM

Article image
Why was US citizen Sharif Mobley abandoned in Yemen? | Cori Crider
One year after the State Department closed the US embassy, the whereabouts of Mobley, a father of three from New Jersey, are still unknown.

Cori Crider

27, Feb, 2015 @1:18 PM

Article image
Leaked Obama administration memo sets out case for killing US citizens
Obama administration reveals when it believes it may kill a senior al-Qaida member without recourse to the courts

Peter Beaumont

05, Feb, 2013 @2:11 PM

Article image
About Anwar al-Awlaki, Mr President … | Dan Kennedy

Dan Kennedy: In his CBS interview with Obama, Steve Kroft failed to ask about the US's next assassination target – a stunning omission

Dan Kennedy

09, May, 2011 @5:54 PM

Article image
Samir Khan named as second US citizen to die in drone strike
Editor of English-language al-Qaida magazine among those travelling with Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen

Saeed Kamali Dehghan

30, Sep, 2011 @9:00 PM

Article image
Why I spoke out on Anwar al-Awlaki | Karima Bennoune

Karima Bennoune: I support human rights for all – and that is why I dissent from the uncritical legal defence of a jihadist who advocates murder

Karima Bennoune

19, Nov, 2010 @5:00 PM

Article image
Obama to bring US drone programme out from 'legal shadows' of the CIA

President expected to move drone policy to Pentagon in major counter-terrorism speech outlining new legal guidelines

Dan Roberts in Washington

23, May, 2013 @3:24 PM