AL-MUKALLA: Two Yemenis arrested by the Houthis after posting critical YouTube videos are to be put on trial, prompting rights groups to accuse the militia of using the courts to harass dissidents.
Mustafa Al-Mumari and Ahmed Hajar were arrested last month after they accused the Houthis of being “thieves and robbers”, named officials they said were corrupt and criticized taxation levels. The Houthis accuse them of spreading false information, defaming leaders and inciting violence.
Abdul Majeed Sabra, a defense lawyer in Sanaa, told Arab News that two others arrested at the same time, Ahmed Elaw and Hamoud Al-Mesbahi, had been freed on bail.
Elaw was detained for a video in which he urged the Houthis to tackle corruption and expressed compassion for prisoners. Al-Mesbahi was with Al-Mumari at the time of his arrest.
All four, who had previously expressed support for the movement on social media, appeared at the Houthi-run Specialized Criminal Court of First Instance in Sanaa.
Houthi official media said that all had expressed sorrow and vowed not to repeat their actions.
However, the militia’s crackdown on YouTubers and social media users has prompted rights organizations to accuse them of harassing free speech advocates and using the courts to settle scores with opponents.
The Geneva-based SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties said that human rights violations and abductions have escalated since the Houthis’ takeover in late 2014. The militia established political courts to justify the execution of their opponents and the confiscation of their properties.
“The Ansar Allah (Houthi) organization in Yemen has committed extreme breaches against people it considers to be its opponents, and as a result, it has opened jails and formed political tribunals,” SAM said on Twitter.
The international rights group Euro-Med Monitor accused the Houthis last week of using “tenuous pretexts” to suppress, kidnap, and punish opponents and vocal internet influencers.
In Sanaa, the UN Yemen envoy, Hans Grundberg, declared the completion of a two-day visit to Houthi-held Sanaa on Tuesday evening, without mentioning any outcomes of his discussions with Houthi officials.
“The visit is part of the UN envoy's continued efforts to reach an inclusive, negotiated political settlement in #Yemen,” Grundberg’s office said on Twitter.
He arrived in Sanaa on Monday for discussions with Houthi leaders about renewing the UN-brokered truce and other matters, days after Omani mediators returned to Sanaa to know Houthi demands to end the war.
Meanwhile, during the last 24 hours, sporadic fighting has erupted between government troops and the Houthis in disputed regions around the besieged city of Taiz.
Yemen’s army said that its troops exchanged heavy gunfire with the Houthis near an air defense facility north of Taiz and in other areas south and west of the city. Similar fighting and exchanges of fire also occurred in different areas in Taiz on Tuesday.