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


On 22 March 2021, the Specialised Criminal Appeals Court in the Yemeni capital Sana’a held its second session in the case of Dr. Nasr Mohammed Al-Salami and his group, which consists of 36 citizens, including academics, educators and students, 30 of whom were originally sentenced to death. Eight of those sentenced to death had been released in a prisoner exchange deal. While the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) welcomed the news that eight of the defendants had been released, the organisation says none of them should have been sentenced to death, and calls for the immediate and unconditional release of the 22 who remain in detention.

At the beginning of the second hearing, the court presented the detainees with the initial verdict issued against them, and they all confirmed their desire to appeal. The defense team also requested a copy of the initial verdict in order to be able to present the defense arguments in light of details mentioned in the verdict. The court agreed to hand over a copy of the initial verdict to the defense team in order for them to submit appeals. The trial was postponed until 30 May 2021, after several detainees testified.

During the second hearing, the detainees reported that they had been prevented from continuing their secondary and university education and were still not allowed to have pens and stationery. They also all complained about being deprived of health care, and both Younis Sinan Qayid Al-Jaradi and Qaboos Yousif Haider Al-Shami reported that two years had passed without results. Al-Shami mentioned that the prison doctor had informed the prison administration of the necessity for him to undergo an operation to remove kidney stones in order to prevent kidney failure, but the prison authorities met his request with silence. One detainee, pharmacist Abdulaziz Ahmed Mohammed Al-Hakami, has requested his release on bail due to his inability to move.  

Dr. Yousif Saleh Ali Al-Bawab again spoke about the need for his personal laptop in order to continue his academic research. He also asked the court to investigate prison employees Yahya Saree and Mansour Al-Gharbi, and their companions, who forcibly disappeared him in solitary confinement for a month and a half during the initial trial that took place before the Specialised Court of First Instance (the State Security Court) in 2019. He alleged that during the one and a half-month period, he was subjected to torture, beaten with sticks, and choked by the neck nine times by Saree and Al-Gharbi, in addition to one other time that they requested five of their companions to carry out the assault on him.  

The court ruled that Al-Hakami should be transferred to the hospital for treatment, that prisoners should be allowed to receive books after the approval of the security authorities, called on the employers of the detainees to pay their salaries, and requested the university to pause the studies of the university students among them, instead of expelling them.

During the first hearing on 07 March 2021, 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 Al-Hakami was not able to attend court due to his inability to move.

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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, in violation of their rights to freedom of expression.

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, and prisoners are exposed to the risk of contracting Covid-19. For more information see:

GCHR condemns the sentencing to death of Dr. Nasr Al-Salami and his co-defendants and calls for the sentences of the 30 detainees to be overturned and for the remaining 22 detainees 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, students 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).