Houthi court sentencing of four journalists to death widely condemned
The Ministry of Human Rights condemned on Saturday the decision by a Houthi-controlled court earlier that day to sentence four Yemeni journalists to death. The ministry and several human rights and media networks have called for the release of the journalists, who have been held by the Houthis since their forced disappearance in Sana’a nearly five years ago.
“This decision is an escalatory step that will hinder the efforts made by the UN envoy for the exchange of detainees, prisoners and forcibly disappeared persons in accordance with the understanding reached in Jordan,” the Human Rights Ministry said in a statement, referring to the negotiations held in Amman between government and Houthi mediators.
The ministry warned of the urgency of exchanging all prisoners, “especially with the emergence of the first coronavirus infection in Yemen,” and called on the UN Secretary-General, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Human Rights Council to intervene to prevent the execution of the journalists and secure their immediate release, according to state news agency Saba. Information Minister Moammar Al-Eryani similarly issued his strong condemnation of the Houthis’ decision.
On Saturday morning, the Sana’a-based Specialized Criminal Court sentenced four journalists, Abdul Khaliq Omran, Akram Al-Walidi, Hareth Humaid, and Tawfiq Al-Mansouri, to death. Six other journalists were sentenced to time in prison, but the court determined they should be released due to time already served. They are Hisham Tarmum, Hisham Al-Yousfi, Haitham Raweh, Issam Balghaith, Hassan Annab, and Salah Al-Qaedi.
The charges brought against the ten journalists included supporting “the aggression”, committing treason, and other charges that Houthi-run courts have routinely used against media professionals.
The Yemeni Journalists Syndicate rejected the arbitrary sentences issued by the Houthi-controlled court against the ten Yemeni journalists. It called on the International Federation of Journalists, the Arab Journalists Union, and all organizations concerned with freedom of opinion and expression to reject this unjust verdict and put pressure on the Houthis to reverse the decision and release the journalists.
Yemen’s Media Freedom Watch condemned the arbitrary death sentences issued by the Sana’a court, as did the Geneva-based Organization for Rights and Freedoms (SAM), which called for urgent action from the international community. The Yemeni Legal Center condemned the death sentences and expressed serious concern about the issuance of such sentences by a court that does not have legal jurisdiction, and which is not operating under valid trial procedures including the right to a fair trial.