Yemen: Four journalists no longer face death penalty after being transferred for prisoner exchange

02.03.21

On 28 February 2021, the Specialised Criminal Appeals Court in the capital Sana’a held its first session to hear the appeal case of four journalists sentenced to death on charges of "espionage" and "spreading false news". The four journalists, Abdulkhaleq Ahmed Amran, Akram Saleh Al-WalidiAl-Hareth Saleh Hamid and Tawfiq Mohammed Al-Mansouri, were not present in court and in a surprising turn of events, a representative of the security services said they had been “released”. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) has learned that they will be part of a prisoner exchange and calls for their immediate and unconditional freedom.

At the beginning of the hearing, the judge called on the four journalists, and it became clear that the Security and Intelligence Service did not bring them to court. When the judge inquired about their whereabouts, the representative of the Security and Intelligence Service told the court that the four journalists had been released, and this was confirmed in the court records. The court decided to assign the Specialised Criminal Prosecution to request the Security and Intelligence Service to provide an official statement about the release of the four journalists. The hearing was adjourned until 14 March 2021.

Reliable local reports confirmed to GCHR that the four journalists have been transferred from the Security and Intelligence Prison to the Exchange House, which is a prison that holds prisoners whom the de facto government (the Houthi group) decides to exchange with Houthi prisoners of war held by other parties to the conflict.

The exchange house is located in the central security camp in the centre of Sana'a. The prisoner exchange operations  are supervised by the Chairman of the Houthi Prisoner Exchange Committee, Abdulqadir Al-Murtada.

For more information on the case, see: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/2620

While welcoming the news that the four journalists are no longer in prison facing the death penalty, GCHR condemns the sentencing of the journalists in violation of their right to freedom of expression and calls for their immediate and unconditional freedom. GCHR calls on the United Nations to continue to press the Houthi authorities to free all journalists and allow them to carry out their work unhindered.