Yemen frees Qaeda-linked journalist

Yemeni authorities on Tuesday released a journalist who had been detained for three years on charges of promoting Al-Qaeda, the state news agency Saba reported.

Investigative journalist Abdul Ilah Haydar Shae was arrested on August 16, 2010 on charges of links to Al-Qaeda and sentenced the following years to five years in prison.

Saba said in a text message he had been freed "after he spent three years in prison for working with Al-Qaeda."

But Shae will remain under house arrest for two years in line with an earlier court ruling, it said.

He was pardoned by President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, it added.

Shae was arrested after reporting US involvement in a deadly air raid against Al-Qaeda in southern Yemen, according to rights groups that had been calling for his release.

Last year, Amnesty International said that Shae had alleged US involvement in a December 2009 missile attack on Al-Majalah in Abyan province of southern Yemen, noting the strike killed 41 local residents, mostly women and children, and 14 Al-Qaeda suspects.

Former Yemeni strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh had issued an order for his release in February 2011 but rights groups said it was never carried out due to US pressure.

In January 2011, a special court convicted Shae, 34, of "working in the media for the benefit of Al-Qaeda, taking pictures of security buildings, embassies and foreign interests in Sanaa, and inciting Al-Qaeda to attack them."

Shae was close to slain US-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaqi.

Washington says Awlaqi, killed in a US drone strike in Yemen in September 2011, was linked to a failed 2009 attack on a US-bound airliner, who was killed on September 30 in an air strike in Yemen.

Shae, who was employed by Saba, said in July 2010 that security agents had kidnapped and beaten him.

An expert on terrorism, Shae is considered one of Yemen's most knowledgeable journalists on Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula -- the network's local affiliate.