A court run by Yemen’s Houthi rebels sentenced four journalists to death for “treason” and espionage, a judicial official and their lawyer have said.
The four were among a group of 10 journalists who were detained by the Iran-backed rebels and accused of “collaborating with the enemy,” in reference to the Saudi-led coalition that has been at war with the Houthis since 2015, lawyer Abdel-Majeed Sabra said on Saturday.
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Sabra identified the four who were sentenced to death as Abdel-Khaleq Amran, Akram al-Walidi, Hareth Hamid and Tawfiq al-Mansouri.
The court in the rebel-held capital, Sanaa, convicted the other six journalists on similar charges, including “spreading false news and rumours” to aid the coalition, but ordered their release after time served, Sabra said.
A legal official confirmed the judgement to the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.
The court “sentenced four journalists to death on charges of treason and spying for foreign states”, the official said.
Yemen‘s internationally recognised government slammed the ruling.
“We strongly condemn the illegal death sentences” in a trial lacking “min. standard of justice & integrity”, Information Minister Moammar al-Eryani wrote on Twitter.
The Houthis seized Sanaa from government forces in 2014, prompting a Saudi-led military intervention the following year.
The ensuing war has killed tens of thousands and plunged the Arab world’s poorest country into what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.
In a report last month, Amnesty International criticised the rebels’ Specialised Criminal Court, which issued Saturday’s ruling.
Naming the four journalists sentenced on Saturday along with six others, Amnesty said they had been “prosecuted on trumped-up spying charges for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression”.
The rights group said the detained reporters were beaten, deprived of water and forced to hold cinder blocks for several hours.
“Journalists, human rights defenders, political opponents and members of religious minorities are among those subjected to unfair trial on spurious or trumped-up charges by this court,” Amnesty said.
It said accusations of spying carried mandatory death sentences under Yemeni law.