Yemen: Academic Dr. Hameed Mohammed Yahya Aklan must be released
Dr. Hameed Mohammed Yahya Aklan, President of the National University of Science and Technology and Chairman of the Board of Directors of its Science and Technology Educational Hospital, remains in the central prison in Yemen’s capital, Sana'a, where he faces fabricated charges more than five months after his arrest.
On 11 February 2020, Dr. Aklan was arrested along with four of his companions and relatives - his brother Ammar Mohammed Yahya Aklan, Bashir Abdo Ali Al-Barbari, Sakhr Nabil Mohammed Awfan, and Mokhtar Ali Mohsen. They were arrested without a judicial warrant upon their arrival at the Al-Ameerah security checkpoint in Ibb Governorate. His four companions were held for several weeks in detention, although they are innocent citizens, before being released without any charges.
This is the second arrest of Dr. Aklan. He was previously arrested on 25 January 2020, and remained in detention for eight days until 02 February 2020.
The Houthi authorities, who are holding Dr. Aklan, have demanded that he hand over the financial and electronic records of the university and educational hospital, although they know that he has no authority to do so. They have accused him of having smuggled them to Aden, where the university owners are based, and who themselves have made this transfer. Accordingly, Dr. Aklan was charged with "aiding aggression".
In 2018, the Houthis appointed a judicial guard for the university and hospital, through a decision issued by the Specialised Court of First Instance in Sana'a (the State Security Court). Human rights lawyer Abdulmajeed Sabra, who is defending Dr. Aklan, described this decision by saying, "This measure violates the Yemeni constitution and law in every sense of the word, especially since it was issued by the State Security Court."
On 30 January 2020, the Specialised Criminal Prosecution interrogated Dr. Aklan, transcribed his statements, and charged him with "aiding aggression". In his defense, he made it clear to them that he had no hand in transferring all the material related to the financial and electronic systems of the university and its hospital, and that the transfer took place before the appointment of the judicial guard. After the investigation was completed, the Public Prosecution decided to release him on bail in exchange for his work to restore the financial and electronic systems in Sana'a.
On 04 March 2020, he was interrogated again by the Public Prosecution’s Office, where he was charged with an unusual new charge against him of falsifying a personal identity despite being a discreet academic figure who has never committed any legal violations in his lifetime.
Dr. Aklan, 54 years of age, holds a specialised degree in diagnostic radiology and works as an associate professor at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Science and Technology, which he completed before traveling to Egypt to obtain masters and doctorate degrees in medical science at the expense of the University of Science and Technology in Yemen, to which he returned in 2005 after completing his studies to hold various jobs until 2007 when he was appointed as the President of the University and a member of the Board of Directors of the affiliated Hospital. In 2019 he was appointed Chairman of the Hospital Board in addition to his presidency of the University.
It is noteworthy that the University of Science and Technology is the largest private university in Yemen, founded in 1994, and the number of students enrolled in all its branches is approximately 20,000 students.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) believes that the arrest and detention of Dr. Aklan is an outrageous attempt to control the University of Science and Technology and its hospital, and this was evident in the appointment by the Houthis on 25 January 2020 of Dr. Adel Al-Mutawakil as President of the University, the same day that Dr. Aklan was arrested for the first time.
GCHR calls on the de facto authorities, the Houthis, to immediately and unconditionally release Dr. Hameed Mohammed Aklan and respect his academic right to supervise the University of Science and Technology and the educational hospital.
GCHR calls on all parties to the conflict to release all kidnapped or forcibly disappeared citizens, without any conditions.
The various authorities throughout Yemen must ensure that human rights defenders, including journalists, academics, bloggers, and Internet activists, are able to carry out their legitimate work and express themselves freely without fear of reprisals and in a manner free from all restrictions, including judicial harassment.