AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: The family of a Yemeni journalist taken captive by the Iran-backed Houthis has accused Houthi officials of torturing their son by beating him and placing him in solitary confinement, making another urgent plea to rights organizations and international mediators to persuade the militia to release him.
Abdullah Al-Mansouri, the brother of Tawfiq Al-Mansouri, who was abducted by the Houthis in 2015, told Arab News that Abdulkader Al-Murtada, head of the Houthi prisoner exchange committee, his brother Shehab Al-Murtada, who is the head of Central Security Prison, and his deputy Murad Qassem personally abused his brother by hitting him on the head, leaving him bleeding for a long time before transporting him to a medical facility.
“Instead of administering care for the chronic conditions he got while incarcerated, he was subjected to torture,” Abdullah said, adding that a former inmate informed him that after torturing his brother and the other three journalists — Akram Al-Walidy, Abdul-Khaleq Omran and Harith Hamid — the Houthis placed them in solitary confinement.
In 2015, the Houthis seized four individuals, who were part of a group of journalists, from a Sanaa hotel and convicted them of spying.
The families of the abducted journalists were unable to explain why the Houthis increased the severity of their torture repeatedly.
Citing the instance of detained model Entesar Al-Hammadi, lawyers and activists who have previously spoken to Arab News think that the Houthis become enraged whenever public attention is paid to the plight of detainees.
“I also wonder why the Houthis continue to periodically abuse Tawfiq and the other journalists. Even if we do not communicate with the media, they will be tortured. This demonstrates the Houthis’ level of savagery,” Abdullah said.
The Yemeni government has formally written to UN Yemen Envoy Hans Grunberg, informing him of the four journalists’ deterioration and urging him to intervene by pressuring the Houthis to release them.
The head of the Yemeni government delegation in charge of prisoner swap negotiations, Hadi Al-Haej, urged the envoy to assist in the release of the journalists, put an end to the Houthis’ continued mistreatment of prisoners, form a committee to investigate prisoner abuses and permit relatives of detainees to visit them in Houthi prisons.
Yemen’s Information Minister Moammar Al-Eryani said that the three Houthi leaders mistreated the four journalists, shattered Tawfiq’s skull, and placed them in an isolated cell for 45 days.
He referred to these actions as “war crimes.”
The Yemeni minister said on Twitter: “We call on the international community, the UN, the UN envoy, and human rights groups to condemn these criminal practices, to exert real pressure on the Houthi militia to unconditionally release the forcibly disappeared journalists from their detention centers and to label their leaders as terrorists.”
In Sanaa, Houthi leader Al-Murtada denied mistreating detainees, alleged widespread and hidden torture in the jails of the militia’s opponents, and demanded the formation of an international commission to examine human rights violations in Yemen.
“What the mercenaries are propagating, namely that some of our captives have been attacked and mistreated, is pure slander intended to conceal the atrocities perpetrated against the prisoners inside their facilities,” Al-Murtada said on Twitter.
Local rights groups and media reports said that a former inmate in a Houthi jail who was freed in 2020 as part of a major prisoner exchange died from the complications of ailments he developed while incarcerated.
Sadeq Abdul Jalel Al-Batera, who was tortured for years in a Houthi jail in the province of Taiz, succumbed to illness on Friday.