Houthis sentence first journalist to death in 'farce trial'

Houthis sentence first journalist to death in 'farce trial'
3 min read
12 April, 2017
Yemen's Houthi rebels have systematically kidnapped, tortured and detained thousands of their opponents and are now sentencing them without access to a fair trial.
Yahia Abdulraqeeb al-Jubaihi was detained for eight months without trial [Reprieve]

The Yemeni journalist Yahia Abdulraqeeb al-Jubaihi was sentenced to death on Wednesday for allegedly spying for the Saudi-led coalition - the first death sentence of a journalist issued by a Houthi tribunal.

A vocal critic of Yemen's Houthi rebels, Jubaihi was seized eight months ago and detained in the Sanaa political prison camp after he challenged the group's preferred narrative.

"The trial was a sham - proving that there is no freedom in this country, no freedom of the press or freedom of expression," his daughter, Sahar Yahia, told The New Arab.

"He is 62 and suffers from asthma - which he is receiving little to no treatment for.

"My brother was also abducted and is being detained illegally, I have no details about him," says Yahia.

Jubaihi's trial was held behind closed doors in a special political court for alleged Al-Qaeda militants.

Al-Jubaihi was charged with "spying" and "communicating" with the Saudi-led coalition.

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"We should not validate this verdict by calling it as such, because it is not normal legal procedure," said Yousuf Aburas, a consultant for the Yemeni Coalition for Monitoring Human Rights Violations.

The Taiz-based NGO registered 4,882 cases of people being detained without charge, and 210 enforced disappearances in 2016 alone.

The Yemeni Journalists' Syndicate has reported the disappearance of 18 journalists.

"These trials in Sanaa are a total farce," said Abdulkader al-Guneid, the former mayor of Taiz who was himself illegally detained for 300 days until May 2016.

"I would rather that there weren't any trials because they are all fake - the judges do whatever they are told by the Houthis.

"These trials are for the benefit of western public opinion, not for us." The trials created a veneer of officialdom for the rebels' cause, he added.

On April 10, a separate trial was held in Sanaa, with 36 pro-democracy activists accused of disruption and making assassination attempts.

They appeared in court showing apparent signs of torture, and some made claims for an independent investigation of their detention and treatment.

The court heard how the accused had been tortured and raped at the hands of their jailors - reports which were dismissed by the judge, reported Baraa Shiban, a caseworker for Reprieve.

"The judge silenced accused activists and threatened to put more restrictions on their freedom if they didn't remain silent during trial," said Shiban. When the defence lawyers walked out in protest, the trial continued.

The Houthi rebels came to power in Sanaa in 2014 after they aligned with former president Abdullah Ali Saleh, a figure they had previously fought against before the country's revolution in 2011.

In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition launched a military campaign to help the internationally recognised government regain control of territory lost to the Houthi rebels.

Figures suggest more than 10,000 people have died since this intervention began, while a further three million have been forced to flee their homes.​