In a follow up from IOHR’s exclusive investigation in April, the defence team for the 10 detained Yemeni journalists have been informed of the release of only one, Salah Al-Qaadi, in a move that further demonstrates the injustice of the Houthi court that issued the verdict.
Four of the journalists, Abdel-Khaleq Amran, Akram al-Walidi, Hareth Hamid and Tawfiq al-Mansouri, were convicted of “collaborating with the enemy” and sentenced to death.
Lawyer Abdul Majeed Sabra, head of the defence team for the 10 Yemeni Journalists,
“On August 9, I received the verdict for the ten journalists from the specialized criminal prosecutor’s office, following the court’s refusal to hand over a copy of it and after previously preventing us from pleading the case before the court.”
The verdict was issued based on evidence presented by the prosecution, while denying the journalists their basic right to a fair trial. The court demonstrated its lack of impartiality by not allowing lawyers the chance to refute the claims.
Official Verdict from the Court
The Houthi court also brutally called for the execution of the four journalists in a public place. The ruling also requested the Ministry of Information and the Syndicate of Journalists to use the judgement against sentenced journalists and prosecute them, which is an act that itself is not within the judge’s authority.
Furthermore, this ruling makes freedom of the press, opinion, and expression extremely dangerous, and is used as a warning so no journalist would dare express an opinion, knowing the consequences that lie ahead.
2. Lawyers request on 22 of August. 2020 requesting the court to release journalists based on the court’s decision of “release due to time served.” The lawyers are yet to be released.
One of the journalists, Salah Al-Qaadi, has now been released. The Specialized Criminal Prosecution Office in Sana’a refuses to release the remaining five journalists; Hisham Ahmed Saleh Tarmoom, Hisham Abdul-Malik Abdul-Razzaq Al-Yousifi, Haitham Abdul-Rahman Saeed Rawah Al-Shehab, Issam Amin in Al-Ghaith and Hassan Abdullah Yahya Anab, despite the court ruling for their release and issuing repeated release orders. The prosecution office claims that they are blocking the release due to allegations that they will be released in a prisoner exchange deal.
Such a move confirms that the detainees, who have not yet been sentenced or have not received a verdict, are being used as political pawns, which is a major violation of their human dignity and their right to freedom. Using journalists as political pawns is a clear violation, so the international community must continue to call for their release.
Sabra told IOHR how he heard about the release of Salah,
“…after the verdict was issued, it surprised me that I received a call from the nine journalists after the release of their tenth colleague, Salah al-Qaidi.”
This was the first and perhaps the only call from the Security and Intelligence Service since their arrest on 6 September 2015. Sabra continued,
“and after the exchange of greetings between us for the blessed month of Ramadan, they asked us to work harder to speed up their release. They appealed to the authority in Sanaa to release them via their press union, all Arab and international journalists’ unions, all local and international press and human rights organisations, the representative of the United Nations to Yemen and others, to be quickly released in this holy month.”
“In my role as a lawyer for them, I call on the authority in power in Sanaa to release them, and I call on all press unions and local and international human rights organizations to exert their utmost efforts to put pressure on the existing authority in Sanaa to speed up the release of journalists and all of its detainees.” Abdul Majeed Sabra, Lawyer of detained journalists
Sabra and the consortium of rights groups and unions also reaffirmed the demand for all opposing political parties in Yemen to immediately release all political detainees. They called on political parties to rise above the extortion and trafficking of political and civilian detainees. The consortium of organisations also expressed concern about the grave danger to the journalists’ health due to confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in prisons.
Arrest and detention
After their arrest five years ago, during which they were subjected to enforced disappearances and inhumane treatment, the 10 journalists were referred for investigation and trial, and their rights, including a right to a fair trial were not guaranteed. They were sentenced to death and imprisonment, while also being subjected to three years of police surveillance.
Despite the release of Salah Al-Qaadi, the following nine still remain in the custody of Security and Intelligence in Sana’a:
- Abdul Khaleq Ahmed Abdo Amran – sentenced to death
- Akram Saleh Musaad Al-Walidi was sentenced to death
- Harith Saleh Homaid – sentenced to death
- Tawfiq Muhammad Thabet Al-Mansouri – sentenced to death
- Hisham Abdul-Razzaq Al-Yousefi – sentenced to prison and placed under police surveillance
- Hisham Ahmed Saleh Tarmoom – prison and probation
- Haitham Abdulrahman Al-Shihab – prison and probation
- Issam Amin Bel Ghaith – prison and probation
- Hassan Enab – prison and surveillance
IOHR calls for the immediate and unconditional release of these journalists and the other political prisoners held in Houthi prisons. Yemeni people need now more than ever to have access to a free press. It is time to allow journalists to do their job without fear or favour.