ALEXANDRIA: A Houthi-run court in Sanaa has started the trial of a Yemeni model who was abducted by the Iran-backed militia.
Entesar Al-Hammadi was seized by the Houthis on Feb. 20 along with two other women. Their capture and imprisonment has triggered local and international condemnation.
Legal activist Abdul Wahab Qatran said the court had refused to give her lawyer the case documents, including the charges against her.
Her lawyer, Khaled Mohammed Al-Kamal, declined requests from Arab News to comment on the trial, citing the court’s ban on media coverage of the case.
The Houthis have not officially commented on the case or the charges, but rebel-affiliated media outlets reported that she was taken due to information about her involvement in a drug and prostitution ring.
Local and international right groups said the rebels forced Al-Hammadi into confessing and that the abduction was part of a Houthi crackdown on liberal voices that challenged the group's radical views.
Al-Hammadi had boasted about her dream of becoming an international model and posted images of her in traditional Yemeni dress.
Angered by intense media coverage of the abduction, the Houthis dismissed a prosecutor who ordered Al-Hammadi’s release after questioning her, threw the model into solitary confinement and verbally and physically abused her.
They also stepped up their intimidation and harassment of local activists, lawyers, and judges who demanded the women be freed.
Last week the Houthis fired Al-Kamal from his job at the Capital Secretariat, a compound hosting government offices, where he has been working for 20 years to force him to drop the case. Al-Kamal said on social media that his boss told him he was suspended, without giving an explanation.
Qatran and Ahmed Hashed, a member of the Houthi-controlled parliament and an outspoken critic of the militia, have reported receiving death threats.
Yemeni human rights activists have accused the Houthis of using judicial bodies in areas under their control to decriminalize their abduction of activists, artists and critics of the group.
Huda Al-Sarari, a lawyer and the director of the Defense Organization for Rights and Freedoms, has been following the model's case since the outset. She said the Houthis’ measures against the model showed that she would not be released soon.
“In light of the repression, the confiscation of rights and freedoms, and the use of the judiciary to legitimize their crimes, it is difficult for the Houthi authorities to release victims with the current local pressure mechanisms,” she told Arab News.
She urged international women’s organizations to cooperate with their Yemeni counterparts for more aggressive campaigns to ensure the abducted women were released.
The militia did not adhere to international human rights laws, she added, calling for the international community to impose more sanctions on Houthis who abducted and abused Yemenis.
“Unfortunately, delays in securing the release of the model are not due to the weakness of the advocacy. The Houthi authority is not subject to any pressure and is intransigent in these matters. They are first and foremost a militia that does not respect international agreements, resolutions or advocacy mechanisms.”