LONDON: Four Yemeni journalists arbitrarily detained by Houthi militants since 2015 face death sentences and are being held in appalling conditions, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has revealed.
The Houthi-controlled Specialized Criminal Court in Sanaa sentenced the four to death in April after a show trial involving politically motivated charges of treason and spying.
The revelation comes amid growing criticism of Houthi mistreatment of journalists and whistleblowers.
Houthi authorities arrested the four journalists — Abdul Khaleq Amran, Akram Al-Walidi, Hareth Humaid and Tawfiq Al-Mansouri — during a 2015 raid on a hotel room in Sanaa, family members told HRW.
During their time in detention, they have faced restricted family visits, lack of access to legal assistance and dismal medical care.
“Houthi authorities are using compromised courts to punish journalists for doing their job, adding to the armed group’s bleak record of abuses,” said HRW Yemen researcher Afrah Nasser.
“These journalists should never have been arrested in the first place, much less face the death penalty.”
The UN Group of Eminent Experts for Yemen warned that Houthis have used the Specialized Criminal Court in Sanaa “as an instrument to suppress dissent, intimidate political opponents and develop political capital to be used in negotiations.”
Before the 2015 raid, the journalists worked for local media outlets and reported on Houthi human rights abuses.
None of the families know where the four are held. Family members have expressed serious concerns that Houthi authorities will soon move forward with executions.