HRW: Abducted journalists in Houthis-run prisons face abuse

HRW: Abducted journalists in Houthis-run prisons face abuse

Alsahwa Net- The Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Friday that four journalists arbitrarily detained by Houthis authorities since 2015 face death penalty and receive inadequate 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,” a statement by the HRW quoted Afrah Nasser, Yemen researcher of the organization.

“These journalists should never have been arrested in the first place, much less face the death penalty,” Nasser said.

The statement indicated that the United Nations (UN) Group of Eminent Experts for Yemen has reported that the Houthi group has used the Specialized Criminal Courts in Sanaa “as an instrument to suppress dissent, intimidate political opponents and/or develop political capital to be used in negotiations.”

It explained that Houthi authorities arrested the four journalists – Abdul Khaleq Amran, Akram Al-Walidi, Hareth Humaid, and Tawfiq Al-Mansouri – along with five other journalists during a June 9, 2015, raid on a hotel room in Sanaa, where they were working because it was one of the few locations in the city with an internet connection and electricity, family members told Human Rights Watch by phone.

Amran was the editor-in-chief of the al-Islah news website, affiliated with the Islah political party, a key adversary of the Houthis. Al-Walidi worked for Alrabie-ye.net news website and the state-funded news agency SABA. Humaid was the news editor at Yemen Revolution Press reporting on Houthi human rights abuses. Al-Mansouri worked for Yemen Revolution Press as a graphic designer, according to the HRW.

It quoted Al-Mansouri’s brother as saying that the Houthi authorities restricted access to family members and lawyers during the trial and afterward. “The Houthi authorities never allowed us to visit Tawfiq,” he said. “Every three or four months, the Houthi authorities allowed Tawfiq to call us for five minutes and [he] would ask us to send him money but half of it would be taken by the prison guards.… Last time he called was a month ago, for only five minutes. The Houthi authorities did not allow lawyers to speak to Tawfiq and the other detainees facing executions. The lawyer was able to speak to them only once inside the courtroom in the presence of the judge and other Houthi security officers.”

Family members also described lack of access to adequate medical care. Al-Walidi’s sister said of her most recent visit: “The last I saw him, his face looked very pale. A month ago, he called us briefly and his voice was tired. Akram has chronic digestive problems and suffers from high blood pressure. He [does] not receive medical care inside the prison, but rather that we, his family, send him medicine when the Houthi authorities allow us.”

Humaid’s sister also expressed her family’s concerns over his medical condition: “The Houthi authorities do not give us any information about the case of my brother…. Hareth has been suffering loss of vision, dryness in his eyes, and constant migraines. When he calls us, he asks for money or for us to send him medicine. In 2019, the Houthi authorities allowed Hareth to go once to an eye treatment clinic and we covered all the financial expenses.”

None of the families knew where the four were held.

Family members also consistently expressed serious concerns that the Houthi authorities would execute the four soon, especially after they were not included in the prisoner exchange. Humaid’s sister said, “In 2018, my father died without saying goodbye to Hareth. For the sake of my ill mother, we hope Hareth will be released soon, but we are worried that the death sentence will be carried out soon.”

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