Yemen: High-profile death penalty cases scheduled for appeals court
Two high-profile cases are being brought to an appeals court in Yemen at the end of February. Reliable reports received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) confirmed that the Specialised Criminal Appeals Court in the capital Sana'a has set 28 February 2021 as the date to examine the appeal submitted by the defense team in the case of four journalists sentenced to death on charges of "spying" and "spreading false news”. The four journalists are Abdulkhaleq Ahmed Amran, Akram Saleh Al-Walidi, Al-Hareth Saleh Hamid and Tawfiq Mohammed Al-Mansouri. In another case, 30 citizens including Dr. Nasr Mohammed Al-Salami, will also appeal their death sentence on the same day.
The court had originally scheduled the appeal session for the four journalists on 07 March 2021 but moved the session earlier. The Specialised Criminal Appeals Court, which is based in Sana'a, is competent to settle appeals in judgments and decisions issued by the Specialised Criminal Court (State Security Court).
GCHR is extremely concerned that the earlier date for the hearing in the case of the four journalists suggests that their lives are at an imminent risk. It is expected that the appeal will take place during several hearings.
On 11 April 2020, the Specialised Criminal Court, presided over by Judge Mohammad Muflih, in Sana’a, which is controlled by Houthi authorities, sentenced the four journalists to death, among ten journalists convicted. The other six journalists were ordered to be freed for time served, after having been in detention for almost five years.
The four journalists are still languishing in the Security and Intelligence Prison in Sana'a. Reliable reports confirmed that prisoners, in particular the journalists, have been mistreated and denied regular visits or contact with their families. The irregular visits are made from behind an iron partition, and last for only a few minutes in the presence of guards, so they are unable to speak freely with their families.
If this court upholds the preliminary death sentence against them, they would have one last chance to appeal the sentence at the Supreme Court of Yemen.
Likewise, the Specialised Criminal Appeals Court in Sana'a has also set 28 February 2021 as the date to hear an appeal in the case known as the Dr. Nasr Al-Salami case. Dr. Nasr Mohammed Al-Salami was among a group of 36 citizens, including academics, educators and university students, who expressed different opinions on public issues and publicly criticised the de facto government, the Houthis, which led to them being brought to court.
On 09 July 2019, the Specialised Criminal Court in Sana'a issued a death sentence against 30 defendants, including Dr. Al-Salami, and acquitted six others in the case, who were only released 45 days after the court's decision. It took a year for the court ruling to reach the lawyer.
Dr. Al-Salami's group is being held in the Security and Intelligence Prison in Sana'a as well, and they face the same problems as the journalists.
For more information on this case, see the following: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/2432
Meanwhile, in another case, on 23 February 2021, the Public Prosecution issued an order to release 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, on bail. He was detained for over one year after being falsely accused and charged with "aiding aggression" and "falsifying an identity", related to the transfer of financial and electronic records of the university and educational hospital.
On 11 February 2020, Dr. Aklan was arrested, along with four companions and relatives, upon their arrival at the Al-Ameerah security checkpoint in Ibb Governorate. His four companions, including his brother, were held for several weeks in detention, although they are innocent citizens, before being released without any charges made against them.
For the past year, Dr. Aklan was detained in the central prison in Sana'a, where his health suffered due to diabetes, high blood pressure, lack of proper medical care and the deliberate delay of his medication.
GCHR calls on governments with influence in Yemen, and United Nations mechanisms, including the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression Irene Khan, to intervene to help save the lives of journalists Abdulkhaleq Ahmed Amran, Akram Saleh Al-Walidi, Al-Hareth Saleh Hamid and Tawfiq Mohammed Al-Mansouri, along with those convicted in the Naser Al-Salami case.
GCHR calls on the de facto authorities, the Houthis, to stop using the death penalty in free expression cases and to overturn the death sentences against the four journalists, as well as the Dr. Nasr Al-Salami and his co-defendants, and to release them immediately. The authorities must drop all charges against defendants which violate freedom of expression.