Yemen — A top Yemeni investigative journalist who died under dubious circumstances — while investigating corruption by oil companies — was poisoned, an autopsy now reveals.
Mohammed al-Absi — “whose work explored the corrupt relations between powerful militias and prominent businessmen,”reports the New Arab — was having dinner in capital city, Sana’a, with a cousin in December when both had to be rushed to the hospital — and the prominent journalist ultimately died.
Al-Absi’s sudden and inexplicable death fueled suspicions among friends and family, as well as from the Yemeni journalists’ union — which called for an investigation.
Some speculated al-Absi had suffered a heart attack or other acute condition, but — delaying a proper funeral for three weeks — samples were flown to Jordan for analysis and proved this week the journalist had been poisoned.
Both the Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate and the International Federation of Journalists — which have joined forces to demand an official probe — issued a statement of mourning shortly after al-Absi’s untimely death, with IFJ President Philippe Leruth stating,
“We are troubled by the passing of Mohamed al-Absi in such unclear circumstances and support his family and the YJS in their demands for a serious and independent investigation in the case as well as an autopsy by a doctor representing the union to clarify the cause of his death.”
OilPrice.comreports, “Al-Absi was a prominent Yemeni investigative journalist said to have been investigating oil companies owned by Houthi leadership. He had published a series of reports over the past years, focused on corruption, particularly in the energy industry and in relation to arms deals.
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“Human rights activists are responsible for the claims that Al-Absi was investigating oil and gas companies allegedly operating on the black market. Activists published several documents that were in the journalist’s possession after his death.”
According to the outlet, one of the documents published post mortem concerns Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul Salam, who allegedly owns an oil company primarily working the black market to sell in Houthi rebel-controlled areas of Yemen, while the New Arab says another surrounds Dagsan Mohammed Dagsan, an arms dealer.
Journalists have always faced stated and unstated threats of physical harm when investigating behind-the-curtain business dealings and political corruption — and the mysterious demise of al-Absi appears to be no exception.
“In a joint statement, advocates called upon the state prosecution to start a ‘transparent investigation’ saying that al-Absi played an ‘exceptional role against corruption,’” the New Arabreports.
A separate statement from the groups investigating the death — including his family, two local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the YJS, and Sana’a Center for Studies — emphasized they had “not received financial support from any party or political entity” to conduct the probe.
News al-Absi had been fatally poisoned comes amid incendiary tensions of the proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia over Yemen — and further bellicose posturing by the United States over the supposed threat of terrorism from Tehran.
Journalists reporting from conflict zones in the Middle East have been persecuted and even killed for their efforts — besides al-Absi, American journalist Serena Shim died in Turkey in 2014, under wholly suspicious conditions while investigating connections between various politicians and the Islamic State.
Although crucial details about the poisoning of al-Absi remain unknown, the fact he was covering corruption and the dealings of oil companies certainly lends potential motivation for murder.