Statement of Yemeni tribal leaders


In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate

A statement by the leaders, elders, and dignitaries of the Bani Mattar Mekhlaf Ayyash tribe regarding the events of 15 May 2017 in front of the Special Criminal Prosecution building in Sana’a and the attack on the peaceful procession


National Security arrested Sheikh Walid Saleh Ayyash in Hudaydah more than a month ago as instructed by the Special Criminal Prosecution in Sana’a, and per the arrest list issued by honorable Judge Rajeh Zayed without specifying the reason for arrest and without allowing Sheikh Walid his legal rights. 

Sheikh Walid Saleh Ayyash is a distinguished and well-respected personality among the Arab tribes and institutions of civil society.  He is well known for his integrity and wisdom, for his love, loyalty and devotion to his country, for his tolerance and respect for the government and the law, and for his efforts in spreading values of coexistence, peace, and equality among all.

The detention of Sheikh Walid Ayyash, the manner in which he and his friend were kidnapped, and the deprivation of his legal rights, all impelled the Tribe to send a number of its leaders and members of the Council of Representatives to meet with the Chief of Special Criminal Prosecution, Mr. Khalid Al-Mawari, to ask for the release of Sheikh Walid and his companion(s).  The Chief Prosecutor promised to write a memorandum to National Security asking for their transfer from Al-Hudaydah to Sana’a within two days for interrogation and to investigate their case.  During our lawyer’s follow-up with the Prosecution to finalize the drafting of this memorandum, a member of the Prosecution, the honorable Judge Rajeh Zayed, adamantly refused to allow this memorandum to be written, in a hateful and grudging manner not befitting his status as a man of justice.  As a result of this behavior from the honorable member of the Prosecution and the passage of the two days that we were promised by the Chief Prosecutor, the Tribe decided to organize a peaceful protest in front of the Criminal Prosecution building in Beit Boos to show our refusal to bend to tyranny and our intention to demand the release of Sheikh Walid and his friends.

Events surrounding the attack on the peaceful protest:

On Monday, 15 May 2017, participants in the peaceful protest arrived at the site.  The protest was organized by the leaders and was attended by many dignitaries, social and legal personalities from the Bani Mattar Tribe, a number of human rights activists, other people involved in community affairs, and a number of others.  The main purpose of this peaceful protest was to demand release of Sheikh Walid Saleh Ayyash, who had been detained by orders of honorable Judge Rajeh Zayed.   

The crowed was standing peacefully and in complete respect for the law in front of the Prosecution building, in a nonviolent gesture to show discontent towards the kidnapping of Sheikh Walid Saleh Ayyash with no legal justification. However, as soon as honorable Judge Rajeh Zayed arrived, and without a prelude, and before the crowd uttered a word, he started screaming at the top of his voice, pointing to the leaders, the dignitaries, and the participants: “They are heretics and agents of Israel.” Then he ordered the soldiers: “Kill them and don’t leave anyone behind, they are heretics and agents of Israel.” Then he shouted in a very clear voice: “Today blood will reach the knees”, and other words that are not suitable to be repeated here.  All this happened at the outer gate to the Criminal Prosecution building in front of the protesters, the soldiers, and Ansar’u’llah who were standing at the gate.  Then, he went in and came back shortly afterwards with an automatic firearm hanging from his shoulder while threatening in a loud voice, saying: “The one you have gathered here to ask about will not be released, we will execute him, we will kill him, and I challenge any official who opposes this.” He repeated his words: “Today blood will reach the knees.”  

To preserve everyone’s safety and to show respect towards Prosecution and the law, the protesters stayed quiet and patient.  They said to Judge Rajeh Zayed: “Thank you.  We have come here to follow up with you.  You are an official and a judge and it is not appropriate that you should threaten to kill us, or accuse us of being heretics or freemasonry, and you don’t have the right to remove us since this is a governmental building and a house for justice at which we come to ask for justice.  Now, if our Sheikh is guilty, or a murderer, or a thief, or is accused of any other wrongdoing, then bring him to justice, and the law has the last word.” But the honorable Judge Rajeh Zayed was screaming: “I am the law, this man is a heretic and we will kill him, and you will also be killed if you don’t leave.” He said many other things that are not appropriate to be repeated and he continued threatening the protesters.

After a short while the procession of the leaders of the Tribe and members of the Council of Representatives arrived to enter the building, but the honorable Judge Rajeh Zayed told the soldiers to prevent them from entry and said: “Not a single human being can enter, not a Sheikh, not a Representative, nobody.”  He then threatened the soldiers: “If anyone enters, this will be a doom day for you.”  Therefore, the leaders and the members of the Council of Representatives started calling the Chief Prosecutor on their phones. Honorable Judge Khalid Al-Mawri, who was annoyed with the way Rajeh Zayed was acting, allowed them to enter.  However, the honorable Judge Rajeh Zayed met them at the internal gate of the building and started screaming at them in an unbefitting way, calling them agents of the Jews and freemasonry and other words inappropriate for a Prosecutor and the people present. After a short while the honorable Judge Rajeh Zayed ordered the soldiers and Ansar’u’llah who were standing at the gate to start shooting – with live ammunition – at the protestors.  The shooting was intensive and went on nonstop for half an hour. This happened while not a wrong word or action was seen or heard from the participants to justify this irresponsible and bloody action.  This incident was witnessed by hundreds of people who were around the area, and also the business owners and residents.

The behavior of the honorable Judge Rajeh Zayed could have led to a humanitarian disaster since the intention to kill was obvious, and but for God’s mercy and the good hearted among the soldiers who directed their shots higher than the heads of the protesters, we would have been facing an ugly murder crime not worthy of an apparatus responsible for implementing justice and preserving lives.  At this time, those leaders of the protest started to check on all and encourage them to keep the peace and not be swayed by these provocative acts.  When the soldiers were asked to explain, they said that they had to shoot in obedience to the orders of Judge Rajeh Zayed, who had ordered them to shoot at the crowd using live ammunitions, his reasoning being that they “disturb the authorities and threaten the prosecution.” The soldiers then said that as they knew the truth they decided to direct the shots into the air to avoid casualties.

Due to this violent development, the leaders of the protest asked the participants to leave to preserve their lives. However, after the crowd dispersed and got far away from the scene, some groups started following them, and two of the youth were detained far away from the building and with no obvious reason.

The above is a brief description which excludes many of the unbefitting actions and words seen and heard from honorable Judge Rajeh Zayed, which could have led to a massacre.  Here, we would like to ask the entire judicial system and the honorable prosecution in particular:  “Is this an acceptable manner of behavior from a person who holds an important legal position as a prosecutor? By God, can a judge who acts in such manner observe justice in his work and treat the oppressed fairly?  Is this how a judge behaves, and does the law allow this?  How do you expect us to allow one of our leaders to be at the mercy of someone who carries so much hate and intolerance?  Is it reasonable and acceptable for a judge to issue a verdict in advance and to announce blatantly that he will kill our detained Sheikh?

We have recently heard that the honorable Judge Rajeh Zayed has intentionally prevented any medical assistance to reach Sheikh Walid, who is suffering from acute fever in Al-Hudaydah detention center. We consider this behavior against the law and clearly aiming at Sheikh Walid Ayyash’s life, and the beginning of a crime towards which we cannot remain silent.

We urgently ask the noble men of the judiciary and prosecution to halt this judge from the tyranny he is committing, and to stop the serious damage that his actions are causing, which is a crime against the innocent and endangers the reputation of our beloved homeland whose judicial system had always been known for its integrity and justice.  We would like to officially present through this statement our legal demands as follows:

  1. Immediate release of Sheikh Walid Saleh Ayyash and permission for physicians to treat him and to transfer him to his city, Sana’a.
  1. If Sheikh Walid is accused of any wrongdoing, we ask that he is dealt with in accordance with the law and legal procedures, which state that the accused is innocent until proven guilty.  If there is an accusation, then it should be dealt with fairly without resorting to methods of arrest and humiliation.
  1. Staying the hand of honorable Judge Rajeh Zayed from this case permanently, since he has proven repeatedly that he nurtures hostility and bias unbefitting of an official of his rank, and he aims to kill Sheikh Walid Ayyash and his friends, and says so publicly.  The recent incidents are sufficient proof of his unsuitability.
  1. We ask the judiciary to refer Judge Rajeh Zayed for investigation for his involvement in two main incidents:
  1. His intentional harm of Sheikh Walid Ayyash and his friends, and continuation of physical harm and suspicion of attempted murder

  1. The explicit assault with live ammunition of nonviolent citizens participating in a peaceful protest, and the violent acts that could have led to a disaster costing the lives of scores of people.

  1. We would like to enter in writing here that we retain our legal and constitutional right to sue the honorable Judge Rajeh Zayed for insulting the leaders of the Tribe with his humiliating words and accusing them of treason, espionage, and blasphemy, which are grave accusations punishable by law, and are considered a disgrace in the Yemeni tribal traditions.

In conclusion, we would like to add that some weak people, and for reasons we are well-aware of, try to spread lies and flimsy stories to change the truth and to blemish the purpose for the peaceful protest and to falsify the concurrent events of that day, and that we confirm that what we wrote above is the truth and that we did not add many other details as a token of our respect for the Prosecution and the judicial system.

Dated 20 May 2017

Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah Saleh Ayyash

Sheikh Ayyash bin Ayyash bin Ayyash

Sheikh Muhammad Ayyash bin Ayyash bin Ayyash

Sheikh Ali Abdullah Saleh Ayyash

Sheikh Abdullah Ayyash bin Ayyash bin Ayyash

And all the elders and dignitaries of Bani Mattar Mekhlaf Ayyash

And the friends and colleagues of Sheikh Walid Salih Ayyash