Investigative reporter and former Truthdigger of the Week Jeremy Scahill slammed the Obama administration Thursday for the role he says it played in the continued detention of Abdulelah Haider Shaye, a prominent Yemeni journalist who was the first to expose an American cruise missile strike that killed dozens of civilians. Shaye was finally freed this week after spending three years in jail on terrorism-related charges.

Scahill, who extensively covered Shaye’s case in his latest book “Dirty Wars” and the recently released film of the same name, told “Democracy Now!” that the journalist was held “because he had the audacity to expose a U.S. cruise missile attack that killed three dozen women and children, and the United States had tried to cover it up.”

Yemen’s president had intended to pardon him in 2011, but reportedly “changed his mind” after speaking with President Obama. The White House has responded to Shaye’s release by issuing a statement saying it was “concerned” and “disappointed” by the decision to free him before his five-year sentence was up.

“The White House is saying that they are disappointed and concerned that a Yemeni journalist has been released from a Yemeni prison,” Scahill said. “The White House is citing his conviction, that he supposedly was a supporter of al-Qaida, in a kangaroo court, a court that was condemned by every major international media freedom organization, every major international human rights organization, that it was a total sham trial, where he was kept in a cage during the course of his prosecution and was convicted on trumped-up charges,”

He later added, “My question for the White House would be you want to co-sign a dictator’s arrest of a journalist, beating of a journalist, and conviction in a court that every human rights organization in the world has said was a sham court? That’s the side that the White House is on right now. Not on the side of press freedom around the world. They’re on the side of locking up journalists who have the audacity to actually be journalists.”

Click here for a complete transcript of Scahill’s interview.

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