Yemen's Houthi rebels sentence four journalists to death for 'treason'

Yemen's Houthi rebels sentence four journalists to death for 'treason'
Amnesty said the four journalists have been sentenced on "trumped-up spying charges for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression".
2 min read
11 April, 2020
A Houthi soldier stands guard outside the central prison in Sanaa [Getty]
A court run by Yemen's Houthi rebels sentenced four journalists to death on Saturday for "treason" and espionage, a judicial official said.

The court in Houthi-held capital Sanaa "sentenced four journalists to death on charges of treason and spying for foreign states", the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Yemen's internationally recognised government slammed the ruling.

"We strongly condemn the illegal death sentences" in a trial lacking "min. standard of justice & integrity", information minister Moammar Al-Eryani wrote on Twitter.

He named the journalists as Abdelkhaleq Omran, Akram Al Walidi, Harith Hamid, and Tawfiq Al Mansouri.

The Iran-backed Houthis seized Sanaa from government forces in 2014, prompting a Saudi-led military intervention the following year. 

Read also: In-depth: How war has handcuffed journalism in Yemen

The ensuing war has killed tens of thousands and plunged the Arab world's poorest country into what the United Nations calls the worst humanitarian disaster globally.

In an Amnesty report last month, the rights watchdog criticised the rebels' Specialised Criminal Court, which issued Saturday's ruling.

Naming the four journalists sentenced on Saturday along with six others, it said they had been "prosecuted on trumped-up spying charges for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression".

"Journalists, human rights defenders, political opponents and members of religious minorities are among those subjected to unfair trial on spurious or trumped-up charges by this court," Amnesty said. 

It said accusations of spying carried mandatory death sentences under Yemeni law.

Read also: Yemen in Focus: UN's lax approach 'emboldens Houthi violence'

According to a Reporters Without Borders' (RSF) annual report on press freedom worldwide, Yemen ranked 168th out of 180 countries in the press freedom index.

Over the last five years, journalists are known to have been killed, held hostage or forcibly disappeared. According to the RSF’s report, two journalists were killed in Yemen in last year between January 1 to December 1.

Since the beginning of the war in 2015, 15 journalists remain hostage mainly in the Houthi-held areas. 

Meanwhile, journalists are also imprisoned and tortured by Saudi forces and their Yemeni allies, as documented in an HRW exposé on abuses against locals in Al-Mahrah, Yemen's eastern governorate.

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