Yemen: Journalist Abdulhafez Al-Samadi in poor health and must be freed
According to reliable reports received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), the health of journalist Abdulhafez Al-Samadi has deteriorated while in detention and he requires urgent medical care. He has been imprisoned by the Houthi security services in Yemen since July 2019 and GCHR calls for his immediate release.
On 27 July 2019, masked gunmen in civilian clothes from the Houthi Preventive Security Service kidnapped Al-Samadi from his home in the center of the capital, Sana'a, where he has remained in prison ever since. His first contact with his family was on 10 November 2019, after being forcibly disappeared for over three months.
On 29 December 2019, Al-Samadi appeared handcuffed before the Public Prosecution in Sana'a to attend a hearing, accompanied by his lawyer Abdulmajeed Sabra. He appeared weak and exhausted, and the bones on his face were very prominent, raising suspicion that he had suffered ill-treatment and malnutrition throughout his detention. During the proceedings, he mentioned that he suffers from colon disease, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, and a tumor which has appeared on his back, yet he has not been provided with the necessary medical treatment. The Prosecutor refused to accept his allegations that he was subjected to torture, which included beatings and prolonged interrogations that continued until midnight or later, on eight occasions.
The Public Prosecution directed two charges against Al-Samadi, namely communicating with the enemy, and publishing news for the benefit of enemies, both of which he denied. He said that the contents of the investigation report had been written by security personnel and they put his fingerprint on it while his eyes were closed and signed instead of him on some pages. He also said, "My phone and my accounts on social media networks are there to prove the falsehood of the charges against me."
His lawyer has asked for Al-Samadi to be released on bail since he is a journalist and there is no evidence against him, and expedite his release due to his deteriorating health. He also requested a copy of the investigation report in order to be able to present his defense.
Al-Samadi previously worked for “Akhbar Al-Youm” newspaper, and wrote a large number of articles published on various websites on issues of concern to citizens in Yemen. He was out of the media business for a long time prior to his arrest due to the poor security for journalists and unstable living conditions.
GCHR is deeply concerned about the arbitrary arrest and lengthy detention of journalist Abdulhafez Al-Samadi, as part of a continuing pattern adopted by various authorities across Yemen aimed at targeting journalists and putting serious limitations on freedom of the press.
GCHR urges the Houthi authorities to meet all their human rights obligations and to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release journalist Abdulhafez Al-Samadi, and drop all charges against them;
- Declare full recognition of the right to public freedoms such as freedom of the press; and
- Ensure, in all circumstances, that all human rights defenders including journalists in Yemen are able to carry out their legitimate human rights work without fear of punishment and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment, and that people are free to carry out peaceful protests.