Yemen: Specialised Criminal Court of Appeal postpones case of Dr. Nasr Al-Salami and his group

18.03.21

On Sunday, 07 March 2021, the Specialised Criminal Appeals Court in the Yemeni capital Sana’a held its first session in the case of Dr. Nasr Al-Salami and his group, which consists of 36 citizens, including academics, educators and university students, 30 of whom were sentenced to death. . The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) welcomes the news that eight of those sentenced to death have been released in a prisoner exchange deal, but calls for the immediate and unconditional release of the 22 who remain in detention.

The number of those present in court was 20 detainees from the group. Detainee Mohammed Ibrahim Suleiman Al-Ahdal did not receive a request to attend by the Public Prosecution, and detainee Abdulaziz Ahmed Mohammed Al-Hakami was not able to attend court due to his inability to move.

At the hearing, Dr. Yousif Saleh Ali Al-Bawab, one of the detainees, spoke about their suffering since their arrest and how the Public Prosecution Office did not make any effort to guarantee their rights as prisoners and explained that he was deprived of continuing his research because he was not given his personal laptop that contains his research. He confirmed that the prison administration still does not allow pens and notebooks to be given to the prisoners.

The detainees asked the president of the court to adjourn the session, as Sunday is the time for their families to visit them, so the session was adjourned until 22 March 2021.

This case, known as the Nasr Al-Salami case, includes 36 people who expressed different opinions on public issues and their public criticism of the de facto government, the Houthis, which led to them being brought to court.

On 09 July 2020, defense lawyer Abdulmajeed Sabra received the verdict against members of the group. The Specialised Court of First Instance (the State Security Court) in Sana’a issued a death sentence against 30 of them with the other six acquitted on the same day a year ago. The six defendants were only released 45 days after the court ruling was made known. It took a year for the verdict to be communicated to the lawyer. Those convicted do not possess any criminal records, and the investigation was carried out by the People’s Committees of the Houthis, even though they do not have any official legal capacity in accordance with the Yemeni Criminal Procedure Law. Paragraph 10 of Article (84) states that judicial status is granted only by law.

They were imprisoned in various stages, starting in October 2015, through September 2016, when most of them were arrested, and ending in December 2016.

The Nasr Al-Salami Group is being held in the Security and Intelligence Prison in Sana’a, which is a prison that does not meet the required health and hygiene conditions. Detainees face ill-treatment by their fellow prisoners in addition to the psychological pain resulting from not seeing their families for a long time and facing the risk of contracting Covid-19 in an environment that is never conducive to proper health standards.

For more information see: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/2432

Sabra, who is in charge of defending the members of the group, wrote on his Facebook page a legal review of this case, stating, “Returning to the court ruling issued in this case, the death penalty, in discretion and punishment, despite the invalidity of the procedures of enforced disappearance and torture and the invalidity of arrest and search procedures and other procedural defenses provided by the defense team, requires the verdict of their innocence, but the Court of First Instance did not pay attention to any of that and issued its death sentence.” He also confirmed, "All the charges against them are fabricated political charges that have no basis in reality."

GCHR condemns the sentencing to death of Dr. Nasr Al-Salami and his co-defendants and calls for the sentences of the 22 detainees to be overturned and for them to be immediately and unconditionally released. GCHR calls on the United Nations, including the Group of Eminent Experts (GEE) on Yemen, to continue to press the Houthi authorities to free all those convicted and imprisoned in violation of their right to freedom of expression, and to stop detaining journalists, human rights defenders, academics and online activists.

Pending the release of the prisoners, GCHR also calls for the full implementation of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules).