Houthi court sentences 35 Yemeni lawmakers to death

Southern Movement militants take up positions in the Jabal al-Ierr area of Yemen's southern Lahej province, as they prepare to secure the area against Shi'ite Houthi fighters, March 7, 2015. (REUTERS)
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Updated 04 March 2020

Houthi court sentences 35 Yemeni lawmakers to death

  • Dozens of legislators in Houthi-controlled areas, including the current Parliament’s head, have switched sides and joined the internationally recognized government since December 2017 when militants killed former President Ali Abdullah Saleh

AL-MUKALLA: A court controlled by Iran-backed Houthis on Tuesday sentenced 35 pro-government parliamentarians to death and confiscated their properties, a local lawyer who attended the trial said.
Abdul Basit Ghazi said on Facebook that the Specialized Criminal Court in Sanaa handed down the verdicts on members of the Yemeni Parliament charged with treason for supporting the internationally recognized government and military operations by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
Convicted lawmakers included Sultan Al-Barakani, the parliamentary leader and his deputy Abdul Aziz Jubari; Ameen Al-Okaimi, governor of Jawf; Ali Amrani, Yemen’s envoy to Jordan, and several former ministers, tribal leaders and businessmen.
In February, Al-Barakani complained to Martin Griffiths, the UN envoy to Yemen, that Houthis had confiscated the property of 35 Yemeni MPs who supported the internationally recognized government.
Houthi extremists have stepped up their legal attacks on lawmakers since early last year when MPs met in Seiyun in Yemen’s Hadramout province for the first session of the Parliament since the beginning of the war.
Dozens of legislators in Houthi-controlled areas, including the current Parliament’s head, have switched sides and joined the internationally recognized government since December 2017 when militants killed former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Pro-government lawmakers who fled Sanaa say Houthis barred their peers from leaving the capital and forced them to attend the rebel-controlled Parliament. Houthi-controlled courts previously sentenced President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, his deputy Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmer and the Prime Minister Maeen Saeed and other ministers to death for treason.
After the trial, armed Houthi fighters stormed the properties of the sentenced men and ordered local banks to freeze their accounts.
Political analysts say that Houthis are targeting opponents to justify confiscating properties and intimidate those who might consider fleeing areas under rebel control.
“They seek to accelerate looting properties of lawmakers, including houses and other properties in their areas. They also want to terrorize politicians and other lawmakers in Sanaa who plan to sneak out to government-controlled areas or outside the country,” Saleh Al-Baydhani told Arab News.
On the battlefields, fighting continues between government troops and Houthis in the province of Jawf and Nehim district, near Houthi-controlled Sanaa.
Government officials say that militants executed several opponents shortly after seizing control of Hazem on Sunday.
Yahyia Qoma, director of the Ministry of Information’s office in Jawf, said that Houthi militants killed several people on Tuesday and stormed opponents’ houses in Hazem. Houthis have made major gains in the northern province of Jawf after seizing control of Hazem, the capital of Jawf and Ghyal district.
The conflict began in late 2014 when Houthis seized control of Sanaa and placed Hadi under house arrest. The rebels extended their operations across Yemen, triggering a civil war that has killed tens of thousands of people, according to the UN.


US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters

Updated 22 October 2020

US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters

  • Intelligence director: “These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries”

WASHINGTON: US officials accused Iran on Wednesday of being behind a flurry of emails sent to Democratic voters in multiple battleground states that appeared to be aimed at intimidating them into voting for President Donald Trump.
The announcement at a rare, hastily called news conference just two weeks before the election underscored the concern within the US government about efforts by foreign countries to spread false information meant to suppress voter turnout and undermine American confidence in the vote.
The activities attributed to Iran would mark a significant escalation for a nation that some cybersecurity experts regard as a second-rate player in online espionage, with the announcement coming as most public discussion surrounding election interference has centered on Russia, which hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 election, and China, a Trump administration adversary.
“These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries,” said John Ratcliffe, the government’s top intelligence official, who, along with FBI Director Chris Wray, insisted the US would impose costs on any foreign countries that interfere in the 2020 US election and that the integrity of the election is still sound.
“You should be confident that your vote counts,” Wray said. “Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.”
Wray and Ratcliffe did not describe the emails linked to Iran, but officials familiar with the matter said the US has linked Tehran to messages sent to Democratic voters in at least four battleground states that falsely purported to be from the neo-fascist group Proud Boys and that warned “we will come after you” if the recipients didn’t vote for Trump.
The officials also said Iran and Russia had obtained voter registration data, though such data is considered easily, publicly accessible. Tehran used the information to send out the spoofed emails, which were sent to voters in states including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Ratcliffe said the spoofed emails were intended to hurt Trump, though he did not elaborate on how. An intelligence assessment released in August said: “Iran seeks to undermine US democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections. Iran’s efforts along these lines probably will focus on online influence, such as spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-US content.”
Trump, speaking at a rally in North Carolina, made no reference to the press conference but repeated a familiar campaign assertion that Iran is opposed to his reelection. He promised that if he wins another term he will swiftly reach a new accord with Iran over its nuclear program.
“Iran doesn’t want to let me win. China doesn’t want to let me win,” Trump said. “The first call I’ll get after we win, the first call I’ll get will be from Iran saying let’s make a deal.”
Both Russia and Iran also obtained voter registration information, though such data is considered easily, publicly accessible. Tehran used the information to send out the spoofed emails, which were sent to voters in states including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Asked about the emails during an online forum Wednesday, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said she lacked specific information. “I am aware that they were sent to voters in multiple swing states and we are working closely with the attorney general on these types of things and others,” she said.
While state-backed Russian hackers are known to have infiltrated US election infrastructure in 2016, there is no evidence that Iran has ever done so.
The voter intimidation operation apparently used email addresses obtained from state voter registration lists, which include party affiliation and home addresses and can include email addresses and phone numbers. Those addresses were then used in an apparently widespread targeted spamming operation. The senders claimed they would know which candidate the recipient was voting for in the Nov. 3 election, for which early voting is ongoing.
Federal officials have long warned about the possibility of this type of operation, as such registration lists are not difficult to obtain.
“These emails are meant to intimidate and undermine American voters’ confidence in our elections,” Christopher Krebs, the top election security official at the Department of Homeland Security, tweeted Tuesday night after reports of the emails first surfaced.