A court in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, which is under the control of the Houthi-aligned government, sentenced four journalists to death for "treason" and espionage, their lawyer said on Saturday.
The four were among a group of ten journalists who were arrested and accused of "collaborating with the enemy", in reference to the Saudi-led coalition which initiated a devastating five-year war in the country. They had been detained for almost five years.
Defence lawyer Adel-Majeed Sabra identified the convicted as Abdel-Khaleq Amran, Akram Al-Walidi, Hareth Hamid and Tawfiq Al-Mansouri.
Sabra also disclosed that six other journalists were sentenced on similar charges including "spreading false news and rumours" in support of the coalition, but they will be released after time served.
#Yemen: RSF condemns the death sentences that a Houthi court has passed on four Yemeni journalists and calls for their immediate release. Detained since 2015, the journalists could be executed at any moment.https://t.co/orciwnHfZs
— RSF (@RSF_inter) April 14, 2020
The arrests of the journalists drew criticism from Amnesty International who last year described the charges as "trumped up" adding that the detainees had been beaten, deprived of water and forced to hold cinder blocks for several hours.
Following news of the sentencing, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) expressed alarm at the court's decision and called upon the Houthi authorities to release the prisoners. Lawyer Sabra had informed the CPJ that the death sentence had been handed down without the presence of the journalists' lawyer.
If Houthis can release 2,361 prisoners to stem COVID-19 spread, why can't they also release arbitrarily detained journalists facing a death sentence, & follow-up on the pardon for Baha'i people? #yemen https://t.co/pO1f62lZ8O
— Afrah Nasser (@Afrahnasser) April 14, 2020
Last month, the authorities in Sanaa released prisoners belonging to the Baha'i faith following intervention by the president of the Supreme Political Council, they too were facing the death penalty on charges of spying. Yesterday it was also reported that 2,361 prisoners had been released in order to stem the spread of COVID-19, as its presence has now been confirmed in the country.