AL-MUKALLA: Government officials, human rights activists and journalists on Wednesday strongly condemned the death sentences handed down to Yemenis by the Iran-backed Houthis.
The Specialized Criminal Court in Sanaa, which is controlled by the Houthis, on Tuesday sentenced to death three people, including a school principal, on charges of colluding with the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen and the Yemeni government.
Fahed Al-Salami, who runs Al-Nahdah private school in Sanaa, Sadeq Mohammed Al-Majedi and Khaled Ahmed Al-Oulefi were found guilty of forming five military units of hundreds of fighters to undermine security in Houthi-controlled areas, sending the locations of military sites to the coalition, and receiving training and military support from the government in the central city of Marib.
The court also handed down jail terms to 10 other people, including a journalist at Yemen’s official news agency, who were abducted in 2015 and 2016.
Yemeni officials and activists said that all 13 people had been abducted from their homes or offices in Sanaa and tortured by the Houthis.
Majed Fadhail, deputy minister of human rights and part of a government delegation involved in prisoner swap talks with the militia, told Arab News on Wednesday that the abductees were on the government’s list of people who would be swapped with Houthi prisoners.
He accused the Houthis of using judicial bodies in areas under their control to get rid of their opponents.
“Those abducted academics, teachers, journalists and doctors are facing trumped up charges,” Fadhail said. “The judicial system is no longer effective and the Houthis are using it as a tool to silence their challengers.”
Fuad Al-Mansouri, a Yemeni human rights activist, told Arab News that the trials of abducted people and the death sentences handed down to them showed that the Houthis would not tolerate dissent.
“Those are purely politically motivated verdicts, targeting their political opponents,” he said.
Al-Mansouri, his wife and fellow activist Zafaran Zaid were last year sentenced to death in absentia by a Houthi court over allegations that they helped activists to flee Houthi-controlled areas.
“With these verdicts, the militia says you must be a Houthi or loyal to the movement or you will be jailed, displaced, sentenced to death or you will be abducted,” Al-Mansouri said.
Nabil Al-Osaidi, a member of the Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate, condemned the jail sentence given to Yemeni journalist Nabil Al-Sedawi, and demanded the militia “immediately and unconditionally” free him.
Since the Houthis seized power in Yemen in late 2014, thousands of people, including politicians, activists, journalists and security and military officials have been forced to flee Sanaa and other areas.
The Houthis harassed their families and sentenced them to death, froze their bank accounts and confiscated properties.
Meanwhile, Yemeni activists and local media reports said the Houthi authorities fired the principal of Manarat Sanaa International School in Sanaa for allegedly arranging a cultural activity that “violated Islamic norms.”
A video posted online shows several girls dressed in traditional attire dancing on a stage at their school in front of a jubilant audience.
“Ignorant and clueless outsiders (sometimes elite Yemenis who like to fit in) accuse us Yemenis who stand up to the Houthis of being ‘biased’ when all we are trying to do is defend our country against a supremacist, radical and violent group,” Nadwa Al-Dawsari, a Yemeni conflict analyst, said on Twitter, criticizing the Houthis for harassing the school’s principal and students.